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US experts warn of the effects of stigmatizing obese children
"The stigma of people with obesity is widespread and widespread harm," warned the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the United States. Obesity Society. In addition, “behaviors such as binge eating, social isolation, avoidance of health services, reduced physical activity and weight gain” are reinforced by stigmatization, the experts warn.
According to the experts, the stigmatization of overweight and obese children and adolescents has fatal social and emotional effects on those affected, which represent additional obstacles to healthy behavior changes. As a result, those affected often continue to increase. In order to avoid the stigmatization of overweight adolescents, in addition to improving the clinical situation, impartial behavior, linguistic adjustments and empathetic and empowering counseling techniques are required, according to the AAP.
Stigma is counterproductive
The weight stigma is often propagated and tolerated by society, even assuming that stigma and shame motivate people to lose weight. But instead of motivating positive changes, this stigma contributes to counterproductive behaviors such as binge eating or reduced physical activity, the experts explain. In addition, experience with stigmatization also affects quality of life, especially among young people.
A third of the children are overweight or obese
In the United States, according to the AAP, more people suffer from obesity than from any other chronic illness, with a third of children and adolescents being overweight or obese. A total of 17 percent of children between the ages of two and 19 have obesity. "Although there are some promising signs that the prevalence of obesity is stabilizing, rates remain unacceptably high and studies suggest that the rate of children with severe obesity will continue to increase," the AAP said.
Thinking in stereotypes leads to discrimination
Numerous efforts have been made to help children and adults achieve and maintain healthy weight. However, many of these efforts do not address the social consequences of obesity, particularly stigmatization and discrimination, the experts explain. The stigmatization takes the form of a social devaluation of the person because he is overweight or obese. It is often thought of in stereotypes, such as that obese people are lazy and unmotivated, or lack a willpower and discipline. "These stereotypes manifest themselves in different ways, which leads to prejudice, social rejection and overt unfair treatment and discrimination," continues the AAP.
Even three-year-olds who are overweight are stigmatized
According to the experts, children and adolescents with overweight or obesity are victims of bullying and discrimination at an early age. A study of adolescents seeking weight loss treatment found "that 71 percent had been bullied for their weight last year, and more than a third said that bullying had lasted more than 5 years," the message said the AAP. Children as young as three are exposed to thinking in stereotypes. The stigmatization occurs not only by contemporaries but also by parents, other family members, teachers, medical professionals and society as a whole, including the popular media.
Recommendations for avoiding stigmatization
In their current communication, the two US specialist societies also make recommendations for avoiding the stigmatization of overweight and obese adolescents. Because stigmatization demonstrably represents an obstacle to prevention, intervention and treatment. First of all, awareness of the prevalence and the negative effects of stigmatization must therefore be increased. The experts explain that the clinical situation can be improved by modeling best practices for impartial behavior and language as well as empathetic and empowering counseling techniques. Motivational interviews, dealing with stigmatization and bullying as well as further education programs for parents and families to tackle stigmatization in the home and at school are some promising approaches. (fp)