Addressing Weight Bias & Stigma in Healthcare

To help address weight bias, stigma, and discrimination among healthcare providers, we are co-designing a continuing professional development curriculum with a team of individuals who have, themselves, experienced weight-based stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings.

Weight bias, stigma, and discrimination are present across social settings, and research demonstrates that they are also common in healthcare. This is a serious issue that impacts access, quality of care, and the physical and mental health of patients. The project aims to raise awareness of weight bias and stigma in the treatment that patients, whose bodies are larger than the social norm, experience in healthcare, to build sensitivity around how weight discrimination is carried out, and to provide strategies for addressing discrimination in medical practice.

Working in collaboration with critical scholars and lived experience educators – meaning individuals whose bodies are larger than the social norm who have experienced weight-based stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings – we are developing a Continuing Professional Development curriculum that will be presented to healthcare providers in the form of a pilot project. A series of short podcasts describing lived experience educators’ with knowledge of weight-based stigma and discrimination, as well as its impacts, will be developed and shared with healthcare provider participants. Participants will be asked to listen to and reflect on the podcasts, and participate in a workshop to explore their own attitudes and practices related to weight and health, and the strategies for applying what they have learned into their practice. This study is supported by a University of Toronto Continuing Professional Development Research & Development Grant.

Centering the knowledge of lived experience educators, FCHI’s role for the podcast development phase is to facilitate conversations with these team members to identify the experiences and information that they feel are most critical for healthcare professionals to understand and learn from. FCHI team members also bring clinical expertise from working alongside children and families at Trillium Health Partners (THP) who have shared with us their knowledge and experiences about weight bias and stigma in healthcare. Once podcast episodes that reflect this content in their voices have been created, FCHI will lead the implementation and analysis of the pilot podcast intervention and to support educating healthcare providers at THP and beyond.


Addressing Weight Bias and Stigma in Healthcare Pilot Study: Martel, S., Andrews, A., Griffin, L., Hollahan, A., Meerai, S., Friedman, M., Heidebrecht, C., D’Silva, C., Fierheller, D., Zenlea​, I. (Under Review). Raising awareness of weight-based oppression in healthcare: Reflections on lived experience education as emotional labour. In Weight Bias in Health Education: Critical Perspectives for Pedagogy and Practice. Heather Brown and Nancy Ellis-Ordway Eds. New York: Routledge.


FUNDER: Continued Professional Development, University of Toronto