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Americans Are Beginning to Understand Obesity as a Medical Condition, Not a Personal Fault

Tampa, Fla. At ObesityWeek® 2020, new research suggests that Americans are beginning to understand obesity more as a medical condition and less as a personal fault. For this research, Ted Kyle, RPH, MBA, and a team of obesity experts surveyed a total of 7,076 adults in 2017 and 2020. They found that significantly more respondents – 42% – agreed in 2020 that people with obesity need less blame and more medical help. Only 26% disagreed. Just three short years ago, only 30% of Americans agreed with this idea and 39% disagreed.

On top of that, Kyle and his colleagues saw a big shift in attitudes about hiring people with obesity. Two thirds of respondents in 2020 said they would interview a person with obesity for a job. In 2017, that number was significantly smaller, only 57%.

Kyle said that this is good news, “Obesity is a biological condition that is mostly inherited. A person’s genes set the table for obesity, and the environment where we all live serves it up. If a person is biologically resistant, they are unlikely to gain weight in an environment that promotes obesity. But a susceptible person will. So it makes sense to deal with this condition like any other medical condition. Find effective ways to prevent it and provide people who already have it with effective medical care to reduce the impact on health.”

Joe Nadglowski, President and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, was one of the co-authors of this study. He linked these findings back to the decision in 2013 by the American Medical Association to recognize that obesity is a complex, chronic disease. “Before 2013, just about everyone’s assumption was that obesity was a problem of bad choices and unhealthy behavior. But now, people are coming to realize it is more complicated than that. Simply blaming people is counterproductive. It leads to worse, not better, health. So, we’re glad to see progress toward better public understanding of obesity,” said Nadglowski. To view the full presentation on this research, please visit . ObesityWeek® is the world’s largest gathering of professionals who focus on all aspects of obesity science, medicine, and policy. This year, it convened interactively online November 2–6, 2020.

About the OAC

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is a more than 70,000 member-strong 501(c) (3) national non-profit organization dedicated to giving a voice to the individual affected by the disease of obesity and helping individuals along their journey toward better health through education, advocacy and support. Our core focuses are to raise awareness and improve access to the prevention and treatment of obesity, provide evidence- based education on obesity and its treatments, fight to eliminate weight bias and discrimination, elevate the conversation of weight and its impact on health and offer a community of support for the individual affected.

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