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Is it derogatory to refer to overweight patients as obese?

  • Comments (16)

Is it derogatory to refer to overweight patients as obese?

Telling overweight patients they are obese could be seen as “derogatory”, a health watchdog has warned.

Public health workers have been told that patients may respond better if they are encouraged to achieve a “healthier weight” rather than being labelled obese, under draft guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The advice is included in NICE’s paper entitled Obesity: Working with Local Communities and urges health professionals to use “appropriate language” to help obese patients.

It said: “The term ‘obesity’ may be unhelpful - while some people may like to ‘hear it like it is’, others may consider it derogatory.”

It continued: “Directors of public health and local government communications leads should carefully consider the type of language and media to use to communicate about obesity.

“For example, it might be better to refer to a ‘healthier weight’ rather than ‘obesity’ - and to talk more generally about health and wellbeing or specific community issues.”

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, told the Daily Telegraph: “There should be no problem with using the proper terminology. If you beat around the bush then you muddy the water.”

  • Comments (16)

Readers' comments (16)

  • Anonymous

    Obese is obese however much you wrap it up. I agree with Tam Fry that beating around the bush only muddies the waters, and that in doing so patients may think its not so serious after all. They need to take ownership of the problem, and get on with doing something about it. That includes the many obese nurses that are around these days.

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  • Anonymous

    "Telling overweight patients they are obese could be seen as “derogatory”, a health watchdog has warned."

    How stupid. Nurses aren't exactly going to stand in front of a patient or anybody else and point the finger at them and say you are obese! Give them some credit for their social intelligence, diplomacy, tact and professionalism! Furthermore each encounter between two more human beings is individual and spontaneous and nobody should be dictating what is said in any case who is going to sit and learn all the NICE guidelines off by heart?

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  • Anonymous

    It is better then calling them fat or bariatric.
    But we as nurses like Anonymous | 14-May-2012 9:02 pm states
    "How stupid. Nurses aren't exactly going to stand in front of a patient or anybody else and point the finger at them and say you are obese! "

    We have empathy and they be many reasons for the clients weight we do not judge.

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  • Anonymous

    Obesity is a medical term. Does that mean that other medical terms are at danger of being regarded as insults?
    I myself am classified as obese. So now you all have a picture in your mind of a large, unfit, unhealthy person. Well no, I can still sit on a normal seat on a plane and no-one looks at me in disgust, I can walk fast, do my job etc. But the fact remains that I am obese as that's what it says on the chart. I don't feel at all insulted by the term. I know exactly what to do to get slim and fit, but either a. I don't have the time, b. I don't have the energy after a 12 hour shift, or c. I can't afford to join a gym. d. The weather has been so rubbish you can't go for a decent walk. e. I love food. It's one of my few pleasures in life after all the bills have been paid. I don't smoke, and rarely drink. And no, I don't eat loads of junk food or take aways, occasionally that's all. My body is just great at storing the fat, partly due to my metabolism, and partly due to genes I suspect and the rest is lack of self-discipline I must confess!

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 17-May-2012 1:41 pm

    Hi,

    this is the Concise Oxford Dictionary 11Ed. definition of obese which I imagine came before the medical one.

    There are various definitions for the medical term in use but probably many of the public see it more according to the popular English usage which they could therefore perceive as derogatory.


    obese
    n adjective grossly fat or overweight.

    DERIVATIVES
    obesity noun

    ORIGIN
    C17: from Latin obesus 'having eaten until fat'.

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  • Anonymous

    hi Anon 17 May 2.05 pm.


    Thank you for the info. I feel better now, as I would not class myself as grossly fat or overweight, and neither would anyone who knows me. My daughter describes me as "a bit podgy". But, being aware of the health risks of being obese, I dragged myself out into the garden today and dug up some weeds which gave me a good work out, followed by a baset full of ironing. So there is hope for me yet...

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  • I always thought I knew what obese meant ----- I was wrong ! I did not learn what the term meant until I went to work in New Zealand.

    People so huge that their weight has to be determined by using industrial, floor mounted scales !

    Clinicians in NZ tell these people in blunt terms what their prognosis is if they fail to loose weight.

    I sometimes get tired of "political correctness" , just tell it as it is , no need to be offensive or rude!

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  • Anonymous

    one nightmare is when seriously over weight people become seriously ill and need care and turning when there is only one staff member on nights on a twenty-bedded ward. I am quite light (56 kg at the time) for my height and small framed and had to wash, change and turn an incontinent and fairly unresponsive patient who was as wide as the standard hospital bed they were lying on and weighed, on a special scales we had to order, well in excess of 100 kg, several times in the night.

    I believe the fault here lies with the system, who should have envisaged extra assistance at night and other necessary measures, rather than the patient. There was no point in asking for help because 'it is up to you to organise your work' and 'others manage so you can too'.

    I learnt very good lifting techniques during training which have always served me well but things move on but when I requested to attend a course which the other staff had already done I was refused on the grounds of a lack of places! However, the fact that my old methods worked for me and others who had attended these courses still sustained injuries makes me think it is sometimes best to stick with what you know although if I had needed to make any claims for injury I probably would not have had a leg to stand on, metaphorically speaking of course!

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  • Anonymous

    further to my comment above

    the onus is on the employer to see that all their employees have adequate resources to enable them to carry out the work they have been employed in caring for their patients in the most appropriate and safest manner for all concerned.

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  • Anonymous

    been as we use BMI to determine how healthy patients' weights are I think it is important to point out that there are 4 categories: underweight, normal range, overweight and obese. Therefore, overweight patients are overweight and obese patients are obese. There's no point in trying to sugar-coat the facts.

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