Research article

Mapping changes in the obesity stigma discourse through Obesity Canada: a content analysis

  • Received: 06 August 2021 Accepted: 25 October 2021 Published: 15 November 2021
  • Background

    Stigmatization of persons living with obesity is an important public health issue. In 2015, Obesity Canada adopted person-first language in all internal documentation produced by the organization, and, from 2017, required all authors to use person-first language in abstract submissions to Obesity Canada hosted conferences. The impact of this intentional shift in strategic focus is not known. Therefore, the aim of this study was to conduct a content analysis of proceedings at conferences hosted by Obesity Canada to identify whether or how constructs related to weight bias and obesity stigma have changed over time.

    Methods

    Of 1790 abstracts accepted to conferences between 2008–2019, we excluded 353 abstracts that featured animal or cellular models, leaving 1437 abstracts that were reviewed for the presence of five constructs of interest and if they changed over time: 1) use of person-first versus use of disease-first terminology, 2) incorporation of lived experience of obesity, 3) weight bias and stigma, 4) aggressive or alarmist framing and 5) obesity framed as a modifiable risk factor versus as a disease. We calculated and analyzed through linear regression: 1) the overall frequency of use of each construct over time as a proportion of the total number of abstracts reviewed, and 2) the ratio of abstracts where the construct appeared at least once based on the total number of abstracts.

    Results

    We found a significant positive correlation between use of person-first language in abstracts and time (R2 = 0.51, p < 0.01 for frequency, R2 = 0.65, p < 0.05 for ratio) and a corresponding negative correlation for the use of disease-first terminology (R2 = 0.48, p = 0.01 for frequency, R2 = 0.75, p < 0.001 for ratio). There was a significant positive correlation between mentions of weight bias and time (R2 = 0.53 and 0.57, p < 0.01 for frequency and ratio respectively).

    Conclusion

    Use of person-first language and attention to weight bias increased, while disease-first terminology decreased in accepted abstracts over the past 11 years since Obesity Canada began hosting conferences and particularly since more explicit actions for expectations to use person-first language were put in place in 2015 and 2017.

    Citation: Sara FL Kirk, Mary Forhan, Joshua Yusuf, Ashly Chance, Kathleen Burke, Nicole Blinn, Stephanie Quirke, Ximena Ramos Salas, Angela Alberga, Shelly Russell-Mayhew. Mapping changes in the obesity stigma discourse through Obesity Canada: a content analysis[J]. AIMS Public Health, 2022, 9(1): 41-52. doi: 10.3934/publichealth.2022004

    Related Papers:

  • Background

    Stigmatization of persons living with obesity is an important public health issue. In 2015, Obesity Canada adopted person-first language in all internal documentation produced by the organization, and, from 2017, required all authors to use person-first language in abstract submissions to Obesity Canada hosted conferences. The impact of this intentional shift in strategic focus is not known. Therefore, the aim of this study was to conduct a content analysis of proceedings at conferences hosted by Obesity Canada to identify whether or how constructs related to weight bias and obesity stigma have changed over time.

    Methods

    Of 1790 abstracts accepted to conferences between 2008–2019, we excluded 353 abstracts that featured animal or cellular models, leaving 1437 abstracts that were reviewed for the presence of five constructs of interest and if they changed over time: 1) use of person-first versus use of disease-first terminology, 2) incorporation of lived experience of obesity, 3) weight bias and stigma, 4) aggressive or alarmist framing and 5) obesity framed as a modifiable risk factor versus as a disease. We calculated and analyzed through linear regression: 1) the overall frequency of use of each construct over time as a proportion of the total number of abstracts reviewed, and 2) the ratio of abstracts where the construct appeared at least once based on the total number of abstracts.

    Results

    We found a significant positive correlation between use of person-first language in abstracts and time (R2 = 0.51, p < 0.01 for frequency, R2 = 0.65, p < 0.05 for ratio) and a corresponding negative correlation for the use of disease-first terminology (R2 = 0.48, p = 0.01 for frequency, R2 = 0.75, p < 0.001 for ratio). There was a significant positive correlation between mentions of weight bias and time (R2 = 0.53 and 0.57, p < 0.01 for frequency and ratio respectively).

    Conclusion

    Use of person-first language and attention to weight bias increased, while disease-first terminology decreased in accepted abstracts over the past 11 years since Obesity Canada began hosting conferences and particularly since more explicit actions for expectations to use person-first language were put in place in 2015 and 2017.



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    Acknowledgments



    The authors thank Dawn Hatanaka and Nicole Pearce from Obesity Canada who collated the abstracts for review. The authors received no external funding for this work.

    Conflict of interests



    Dr. Mary Forhan is the current Scientific Director of Obesity Canada (May 2021). Her work on this paper was completed prior to taking up this role. Ximena Ramos Salas is an independent consultant and has received consulting fees from Obesity Canada, the European Association for the Study of Obesity and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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