Guest blog: A patient voice on obesity prevention

24 September 2019


Formerly known as the “EASO Patient Council”, the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ECPO) was formed and became an independent organisation at the European Congress on Obesity 2019 (ECO2019) in Glasgow, we now represent 22 countries across Europe. We are a patient led and managed organisation working towards being the leading patient voice for obesity prevention in Europe.

Using evidence-based approaches to treatment and policy, our mission is to build a vibrant community to educate and empower people who are living with and are affected by the chronic disease of obesity. On a more local level, my role within Obesity UK, allows me to encourage, support and manage peer lead support groups within Scotland for people considering or who are post-operative in bariatric surgery.

Obesity is recognised as a disease by the World Health Organisation, unfortunately, it’s not treated as such by many Health Care Professionals (HCPs), policy makers, the media and society itself.

There is such stigma and weight bias surrounding obesity that ECPO launched a campaign called “We are People First” (#PeopleFirst) at ECO2019. The main goal of the #PeopleFirst campaign is to change the way in which Obesity is referred to i.e. the use of stigmatising language, images and attitudes. An example of which may be,

I am not an Obese Person, I am a person who lives with Obesity – I am Audrey, I am a person first.

In essence, to be treated with dignity and respect.

We have to look at standardising the treatment offered to people living with Obesity, ensuring the services are in place to assist HCPs. We need to empower patients and HCPs to refer where needed to Obesity experts ensure a standard of care to everyone regardless of their social status or “postcode”.

There may be over hundred reasons why a person lives with obesity, as a culture, we usually only focus on one solution which is “eat less and exercise more”. Of course energy in/energy out is a factor – but we must also consider sleep deprivation, appetite signals and hormone imbalances. There are genetic factors, prescription medications and environmental factors too.

We also have to tackle prevention and education. This is a massive task to be undertaken but it is achievable! Some examples of where we can start are restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks, especially before the 9pm watershed. Tackling the price of healthy foods compared with unhealthy products is also essential and of course encouraging physical activity. We need to also support children and parents to eat healthier, including making it easier for families to buy healthy foods in their local community as well as more acceptable. 

As you can see, Obesity isn’t just about “food”, this is where the patient voice is vital. We have to advocate to our peers who feel that “it’s our own fault”. It has to be known that Obesity is a complicated multifactorial, chronic, relapsing disease and it’s growing at epidemic proportions. We have to have educate using one strong voice that Obesity has more than one cause, this is something that ECPO care deeply about and intend to change.

Audrey Roberts, Vice Chair for the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ECPO) and Scottish representative for Obesity UK.  

Find out more about ECPO and Obesity UK via the following channels:

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