The last few decades have seen an alarming increase in rates of obesity in adults and children, across Canada and globally. Often described as an “epidemic”, there is no lack of discussion on causes and consequences of rising rates of obesity, but little evidence that the system issues underpinning this, and that affect us all regardless of weight status, are being adequately addressed. These system issues include increasing income and social inequalities, reductions in physical activity, increasing time spent engaged in sedentary behaviours and an abundance of energy dense, nutrient poor foods. Instead of a focus on fixing these broken systems, the prevailing narrative focuses on obesity as an individual problem that can be solved by eating less and moving more, which in turn fuels a cycle of blaming and shaming – of parents and children among others. This begs the question “is a focus on the scales actually helpful or harmful?”. In this webinar, Dr. Sara Kirk will discuss the challenges of the prevailing focus on weight as an endpoint rather than on health disruptive environments that impact everyone. She will also share evidence-informed strategies and solutions for future research, policy and practice to reduce weight bias and stigma and support health for all Canadians, regardless of weight.
Dr. Sara Kirk is a Professor of Health Promotion and Scientific Director of the Healthy Populations Institute at Dalhousie University, with cross-appointments to the IWK Health Centre and Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax. Her program of research explores how we can create supportive environments for chronic disease prevention. Her research uses a ‘socio-ecological’ approach that considers how individual behaviour is influenced by other broader factors, such as income, education and societal norms. Part of her work has focused on addressing weight bias, using drama to highlight the challenges people experience when navigating a health system that is not designed to effectively support chronic disease prevention and management.