Eating Recovery Center's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED, CEDS, appeared in an American Medical News article on stigmatizing obesity undercuts effectiveness of public health campaigns. Read part of the article below or to read it in its entirety click here. With more than 78 million American adults considered obese, public health organizations and others have launched campaigns to motivate people to lead healthier lifestyles and shed some pounds. They include first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, which intends to resolve the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. In some instances, however, the messages in obesity-prevention campaigns make people who are an unhealthy weight feel bad about themselves because they seem to shame the obese, said a study published online Sept. 11 in the International Journal of Obesity. One example is a Georgia campaign that said, “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.” A majority of the 1,014 study participants considered the message stigmatizing. “By stigmatizing obesity or individuals struggling with their weight, campaigns can alienate the audience they intend to motivate and hinder the behaviors they intend to encourage,” said lead study author Rebecca Puhl, PhD. She is director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. More than 78 million American adults are obese. To address this problem, Puhl recommends that primary care physicians discuss with patients inaccurate or potentially stigmatizing obesity-prevention information they hear about or read. She also encourages doctors to make sure the educational materials they have on wellness in their offices promote specific healthy behaviors people should adopt, such as eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, rather than focusing on just losing weight. “Messages that focus on promoting specific health behaviors are likely to be more effective” than messages focused on weight, Puhl said. A report published online Aug. 20 in Circulation found that some public health approaches can be effective. They include health warnings on cigarette packages, policies that make nutritious food more affordable and improving sidewalk design to encourage physical activity. When it comes to obesity, Ovidio Bermudez, MD, encourages physicians to briefly address the importance of a healthy diet, exercise and a good body image at every patient visit, even if the individual is a healthy weight. “If we get across to patients the message that nutrition, physical activity, wellness and self-acceptance are important aspects of health, I believe we will make a difference” in reducing obesity and eating disorders, said Dr. Bermudez, who specializes in psychiatry and adolescent medicine. He is chief medical officer at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver.