Understanding obesity and addressing stigma: the role of healthcare professionals
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Understanding obesity and addressing stigma: the role of healthcare professionals

Hilda Mulrooney Associate professor in nutrition, School of Life Sciences, Chemistry and Pharmacy, Faculty of Health, Science, Social Care and Education, Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your knowledge of the prevalence of obesity and overweight in the UK

  • To increase your understanding of obesity as a complex multifactorial disease

  • To learn ways to advocate for respectful policies and practices in relation to overweight and obesity

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has further emphasised the importance of recognising obesity as a health issue for adults and children, with associated increases in obesity prevalence and risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. Obesity is highly visible and highly stigmatised. It is frequently regarded as a result of lifestyle choices and behaviours, with a focus on personal responsibility rather than as a complex, multifactorial disease with a strong genetic component. Healthcare professionals, including nurses, have an important role in supporting behaviour changes, and discussing weight with patients in neutral and respectful ways. This article outlines the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on weight and weight-related behaviours and discusses the complexity of obesity and weight stigma. It also emphasises the importance of nurses advocating for action to address the obesogenic environment.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e11962

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Mulrooney H (2022) Understanding obesity and addressing stigma: the role of healthcare professionals. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e11962

Published online: 03 October 2022

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