21 Mar 2022 Weight Stigma Local Case Study: Weight Stigma Action in Leeds
Elizabeth Boniface is a Health Improvement Principal at Leeds City Council. In this case study Liz shares detail about the work she has been involved in to help address weight stigma in Leeds.
We became aware of the importance of addressing weight stigma in March 2020 when the joint international consensus statement for ending stigma of obesity was published. We started to discussions with weight management service providers and generally raising awareness across health professionals. Our approach has been a gradual implementation of updating policy, interventions and communications to ensure people living with obesity are supported and not judged. We have explicitly included weight stigma in our service plans and within our healthy weight declaration commitments. A priority has been to ensure that person first language is used consistently for example in the local adult weight management pathway. One of the outcomes has been the development of a guide to support healthcare professionals to have healthy conversations about weight. For World Obesity Day, it was our first campaign directly talking about weight stigma where we wanted to share some of our work. One You Leeds have written this blog World Obesity Day 2022 | One You Leeds and I also shared our work via the World Obesity day page Leeds against stigma – supporting people with obesity | World Obesity Day
It felt very important to start engaging with people living with obesity around their experiences of weight stigma. We co-produced a survey which was sent out to weight management service participants in November 2021. We really didn’t know what to expect as it is the first time that we had asked people directly about this issue. I was overwhelmed by the response and how damaging weight stigma can be. It’s one thing to read through research but reading real peoples experiences really struck home to me how important this is. The survey findings have been published on Leeds Observatory.
It was clear from the survey that experiencing weight stigma has major physical and mental health consequences. It is also highly pervasive across multiple settings making it unavoidable. There were comments on discrimination in access to health care, and in the workplace. For a lot of people, it started with bullying in childhood which then has continued into their adult lives. It can cause suicidal thoughts, withdrawal from social situations, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, alcohol use, low self-esteem and high levels of internalised weight bias, self-blame, feelings of hopelessness. I think we need to be supporting the psychological aspect of living with obesity in health care and weight management programmes and asking about weight stigma. We have also now launched a survey asking health care professionals their views on supporting people with obesity which will also help to inform next steps. I would like to develop some local training for health care professionals and additional resources to support their role in this. There is an ambition to develop a shared position statement against stigma in Leeds which I am aiming to achieve by March 2023 to launch on the next World Obesity Day as we need to address this across multiple sectors to really make a difference.
Where can I find out more information?
You can email Liz at: Elizabeth.Boniface@leeds.gov.uk
- 2022-Weight-Stigma_Analysis-of-Results-.pdf (leeds.gov.uk)
- Campaign Toolkit: World Obesity Day 2022 Leeds Against Stigma Campaign – Google Drive
Social media assets
Below are some of the social media cards developed for World Obesity Day, featuring quotes from their survey.