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Is Obama fat-bashing?

Before the presidential election, I was disappointed to see Obama commenting that doing away with "obesity" would go a long way toward solving US health care problems. Some fat activists have been communicating with Obama and emphasizing that focusing on "obesity" is not beneficial; if disease prevention is a concern, then better results would be obtained by focusing on Health At Every Size (HAES) principles, including encouraging movement and whole foods.

I've mostly had my head in the sand about this because I don't trust Obama to get this. But I noticed that Yahoo had a news story a couple of days ago: "Obama wants skinnier feds".

But I read the article pretty closely and I didn't see one single quote attributed to Obama that mentioned weight. The article described the practices of seven "work force innovators who were meeting with the president to discuss their best practices." Only two of these descriptions mentioned weight: Microsoft was reported to have an "obesity program" and Safeway was reported to have a “Healthy Measures” program that was "making employees accountable for their weight."

A recent article in the New York Times, "Congress Plans Incentives for Healthy Habits", mentions "Congress is planning to give employers sweeping new authority to reward employees for...weight loss..." Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa is one of the authors of a proposal that would encourage employers to develop programs that focus on "obesity" among other things that are believed to be related to health. Obama is mentioned only once, and not in the context of saying anything about weight.

On http://www.healthreform.gov a search on "obesity" turns up 16 references, most of them from reports on state by state "Health Care Community Discussions." But there are no documents coming out of the White House mentioning it, at least if the search form is working properly.

On http://www.whitehouse.gov today there is a blog post "Health Care Reform: Urgency and Determination." It links to a statement by the president about health care reform. One paragraph made reference to "prevention and wellness programs," but the main principles Obama asked Congress to emphasize were:
first, that the rising cost of health care has to be brought down; second, that Americans have to be able to choose their own doctor and their own plan; and third, all Americans have to have quality, affordable health care.
I'm nervous because "prevention and wellness programs" often focus on weight, but so far I'm not seeing any fat-bashing.

Unfortunately although Obama might be using HAES language, the health reform programs that actually get implemented might not use HAES principles. As such programs begin to be implemented fat activists are going to have to be vigilant to encourage the people developing them to turn away from using changes in weight and BMI as symbols of health improvement. They are lousy symbols of health improvement because they just aren't directly related to health the way changes in exercise habits, say, can be.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
pir_anha
May. 15th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Safeway was reported to have a “Healthy Measures” program that was "making employees accountable for their weight."

*ack*.
firecat
May. 15th, 2009 08:45 am (UTC)
The irony, it burns...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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