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18 June 2008
Culture Of Blame Surrounds Obesity

Obese people feel "a culture of blame" against them, which they say has been made worse by media reports about the health risks of obesity, a new study from Australia has found.

Lead author Paul Komesaroff, from Monash University, said that the messages from media and health care professionals to engage in healthy behaviors, such as physical activity and eating healthier, may actually be doing more harm than good.

"Obese people frequently feel overwhelmed and disheartened by the publicity about their condition," he said. "They often feel disrespected and not understood by medical practitioners. Our participants express the view very forcefully that they feel victimized by current social attitudes about obesity. To be told that, in addition to the problems that they recognize only too well, they are now regarded as 'sick' is unlikely to assist them to find a solution."

The participants in the study said they find it difficult to act on the health messages about obesity. Most participants reported that they had tried weight loss remedies that their physician recommended and were generally dissatisfied with the help doctors provide.

Health care providers' efforts to convince overweight patients to lose weight are largely unsuccessful, Komesaroff believes, possibly because they do not understand the key issues that obese people face. "The experience of being obese is often painful," he said. "Many obese people have major social and psychological issues that doctors and public health policies [often] do not address."

"Our preliminary results indicate that health care providers should do a more thorough assessment of the needs of individual obese patients based on a sympathetic and nonjudgmental appreciation of their problems," Komesaroff said. "Responses may include the setting of reasonable targets with respect to disease risk factors and a closer attention to social and psychological issues."

Source: The Endocrine Society


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