One of the University’s leading Health Psychologists, Dr Angel Chater, has co-authored a report published by the British Psychological Society which called for changes in how obesity is regarded, including the eradication of the use of stigmatising language.
The British Psychological Society report explained there was a need for less references to "obese people" and more discussion of "people living with obesity" in an attempt to reduce stigma and both conscious and unconscious bias and discrimination.
Following from this report, Dr Angel Chater, Lead of the Centre for Health, Wellbeing and Behaviour Change at the University of Bedfordshire has said, “In order to address real world issues, such as obesity, we need investment by the Government in psychology”.
Dr Chater Chairs the British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology (DHP), which exists to promote the professional interests of health psychologists and supports the integration of psychology to health, illness and health care settings, relevant to research, policy and practice.
She said: “As current Chair of the DHP, I am keen to create a stronger voice on the importance of psychology to health, illness and the health care system, taking into account a whole systems approach. For this, we need policy makers and those with influence in government on board.”
“We need national backing to move away from classifying people by their condition. We should not be using terms such as ‘obese people’ as that is not what defines someone as a person. They are individuals living with obesity.”
“These tiny nuances of language can psychologically make a huge difference to that individual’s inner dialogue and how they are seen and treated by society. I’d urge the government to take leadership to change the systemic way that currently causes such unconscious stigma and bias. Investing in a psychologically-informed government and workforce can help us to do this, but this investment will need to come with funding.”
Despite increasing media coverage and political attention on the issue related to obesity, and the huge amount of work being accomplished by psychologists and medical professionals working within the field, it is clear that the percentage of individuals living with obesity is only increasing.
Dr Chater concluded: “We have the scientific evidence, theoretical frameworks and clinical experience as psychologists to support policy makers, campaigns and health professionals to make a positive impact on obesity levels in the UK and there are lots of examples of good practice in our report.”
“If the government truly want to deal with the rising issues in relation to physical and mental health linked to obesity, we need both a medical and a psychological workforce that can support this need. For this, we need investment in psychology. This includes investment in education and training, service development, provision and research.”
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