Yesterday’s post posited that government campaigns to combat obesity are using the same strategies that Tobacco Control groups have used against smoking.
In January 2013, an American bioethicist Daniel Callahan, also president emeritus of the Hastings Center, published a paper advocating shaming the obese into losing weight.
The underlying factors of obesity are many. Some obese people use food to self-medicate as a palliative against long-standing low-level anxiety. Others have been on statins or an anti-depressant which causes them to gain and retain weight indefinitely. No amount of exercise or dieting will fix that problem unless there is a change in or discontinuation of prescription medication.
Nonetheless, Callahan — who should know better, given his background — persists with his shaming idea, no doubt, to him, a kindly nudge.
Unhappy with the slow pace of public health efforts to curb America’s stubborn obesity epidemic, a prominent bioethicist is proposing a new push for what he says is an “edgier strategy” to promote weight loss: ginning up social stigma.
Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, put out a new paper this week calling for a renewed emphasis on social pressure against heavy people — what some may call fat-shaming — including public posters that would pose questions like this:
“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”
According to Callahan, public health campaigns (emphasis mine below):
could do with a dose of shame if there’s any hope of repairing a nation where more than a third of adults and 17 percent of kids are obese …
Callahan, a former smoker, argued that public shunning of those who lit up led to plunging rates of cigarette use. People were asked to smoke outside and told directly or indirectly that their “nasty” habit was socially unacceptable ...
“Can there be social pressure that does not lead to outright discrimination – a kind of stigmatization lite?” he wrote.
Fortunately, opposition was quick in coming:
“For him to argue that we need more stigma, I don’t know what world he’s living in,” said Deb Burgard, a California psychologist specializing in eating disorders and a member of the advisory board for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance …
That view is shared by Dr. Tom Inge, an expert in childhood obesity at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“No amount of teasing, probing questions about what they wish they could do, or medications seem to help,” Inge said. “So if one is proposing to help them by more stigmatization, that would seem at once both antithetical and unethical.”
Anti-obesity campaigners are following the Tobacco Control plan. Furthermore, some healthcare employers are already refusing to take on new hires who have a weight problem.
Ted Bear (08-26-2013, 11:59 AM):
Is it discrimination? Probably.
But it also disgusting having an obese person waddling around the work place. It presents a poor image, demonstrates little to control, is an example of reverse discrimination when the ‘healthy’ employees have to make up for the obese person’s limitations, and is an example of poor health in action. If there is customer interaction involved, it is also unfair to make a customer sit and interact with someone who has rolls of fat from their frame.
It costs the employer in many ways to have fat people in their employ, and as such, they can probably make a legal decision not to employ them.
Citizens Medical Center, located in Victoria, requires its employees “fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including having an appearance “free from distraction” for patients, according to the Texas Tribune newspaper.
Potential employees must have a BMI of less than 35 (185 lbs for someone who is 5-1; or 265 lbs for someone who is 6-1), according to the newspaper.
But is this legal? In Texas and most states, yes.
“We are living in such a politically correct society where we are deluding ourselves into believing overweight people are not discriminated against,” says Steve Siebold, a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and author of Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People. “Many employers look at obese candidates and immediately think, ‘this person failed in controlling their own health, how are they going to run a division,’” he says …
In addition to being perceived as ineffectual, Siebold says employers are also concerned that obese people will be sick more often, which will result in lost productivity and higher healthcare costs.