Breaking news: fat suit use in western hospitals unrelated to WHO report on global diabetes; Details at 11…

There’s a new report out today by the World Health Organization about global increases in diabetes.  The news is bad:  there’s been a fourfold increase in the number of people with diabetes world wide, and the incidence has increased from 4.7% to 8.5%.  Those increases are especially concentrated  in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

I’ll be blogging in more wonky detail about recent studies and reports on body weight and global public health concerns on Sunday.  But one thing struck me about how this particular news outlet  presented the information (thanks Samantha for sending me the article):  the picture they chose to illustrate and identify the news story.  It’s at the top of the blog and here.
Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 12.49.19 AM.png
In case you’re having trouble parsing the image, it appears to be a white woman from a well-resourced country being helped by a white female hospital staff member to put on a hospital gown in an examining room, WHILE WEARING A FAT SUIT.
What? Can someone explain this to me?
This ridiculous nonsensical image conveys the following messages to me:
  • Fat people are grotesque.
  • Fat people are passive, not able to do things for themselves.
  • Fat people need to be in hospitals.
  • In order to depict fat people we think it’s more effective to show a person in a fat suit.
The WHO report and other studies show that type 2 diabetes is affecting Asian and African and middle eastern populations severely, but the picture doesn’t reflect that message.  Diabetes also strikes Asian populations at much lower BMIs than in, say, Latino populations.  But we don’t see an Asian person or a Latino person at a diabetes clinic.  Nope, just that white lady in the fat suit.
I suppose it could be worse– they could’ve depicted her with no head.
Okay, this may seem like just a rant.  Well, it IS a rant, but for a reason.  Images that represent fat people in these bizarre or scornful or pathologized ways have two bad effects:
1) they stigmatize fat people, causing all kinds of harm;
2) they distract us from the real and pressing global public health issues, like how to deal with increased diabetes globally.
So enough with the weird staged fat suit pictures.  And while we’re at it, please put the heads back on those headless fat people– they need them.  Thank you.

About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

2 thoughts on “Breaking news: fat suit use in western hospitals unrelated to WHO report on global diabetes; Details at 11…

  1. laufvergnügen says:

    This image is just so absurd and bizarre to me. Is it supposed to appear real?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • catherine w says:

      You know, I got nothing here. I cannot imagine the editorial process which culminated in THAT photo being used. I even googled “fat suit hospital training obesity” etc. to see if this was a thing. It doesn’t seem to be. Sigh…

      Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s