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Is there more to the equation? Weight bias and the costs of obesity

  • Karmpaul Singh
  • Shelly Russell-Mayhew
  • Kristin von Ranson
  • Lindsay McLaren
Commentary

Abstract

The costs of obesity have been well studied, with estimates in Canada reaching $7.1 billion annually. These estimates fuel public and professional discourse about obesity as an “epidemic” with substantial economic and public health consequences. However, cost estimates for obesity thus far have neglected to consider a critical variable: weight bias (i.e., negative bias towards individuals based on their body weight). In this commentary, we propose that some costs currently attributed to obesity may be partly or fully attributable to weight bias. Taking a burden of illness approach, we show that data derived from a purposeful literature search, provided as proof of concept, support the notion that weight bias may be an important variable to consider when calculating obesity-related costs. We propose that future research on costs of obesity should consider weight bias, with goals of achieving more accurate cost attributions and identifying appropriate leverage points for interventions to improve well-being of the population.

Keywords

Obesity Costs and cost analysis Body weight Bias Discrimination Cost of illness 

Résumé

Les coûts de l’obésité ont été bien étudiés, les estimations ayant atteint 7,1 milliards de dollars annuellement au Canada. Ces estimations alimentent le discours public et professionnel sur l’obésité en tant qu’épidémie ayant des coûts financiers ainsi que des conséquences graves sur la santé publique. Cependant, les estimations des coûts de l’obésité jusqu’à présent ont négligé de prendre en compte une variable déterminante : les préjugés contre les obèses (c’est-à-dire les attitudes et les croyances négatives envers les personnes obèses). Dans ce commentaire, nous soutenons que certains coûts actuellement attribués à l’obésité elle-même peuvent être plutôt attribués partiellement ou entièrement aux préjugés contre les obèses. Suivant l’approche proposée dans le document Le fardeau économique de la maladie au Canada (FEMC), nous avons effectué une recherche documentaire ciblée pour estimer les coûts financiers des préjugés contre les obèses. Servant de preuve de concept, les données obtenues soulignent la nécessité de prendre en compte les préjugés contre les obèses lors du calcul des coûts liés à l’obésité. Nous proposons que dorénavant les futures recherches sur les coûts de l’obésité devraient prendre en compte les préjugés contre les obèses afin d’attribuer les coûts plus précisément et d’identifier des points de levier pour les interventions dirigées à améliorer le bien-être de la population.

Mots-clés

Obésité Coûts et analyse des coûts Poids du corps Biais Discrimination Coût de la maladie 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Lindsay McLaren is supported by an Applied Public Health Chair funded by CIHR (Institute of Population and Public Health and Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions.

Supplementary material

41997_2018_146_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Werklund School of EducationUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Department of Community Health SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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