The Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, or STRIPED, is a graduate-level training initiative based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Their goal is to prevent eating disorders by creating a public health incubator with transdisciplinary collaborations among experts in eating disorders, public health, adolescent preventive medicine, health law, policy, and economics, and many other disciplines.
It’s a pretty big deal anytime you have powerful mainstream “health gatekeepers” acknowledge injustices in society. It’s my opinion that social justice issues should be centered in public health and mainstream medicine. Can you even have health without mental health? Is public health only for “some” of the public, or all?
You can’t prevent eating disorders without addressing the many intersecting “-isms” in our culture.
From the STRIPED newly-published “roadmap for addressing weight stigma”… (see link and citation at the end of this blog):
Although we know about the harmful effects of weight stigma and have some strategies to reduce it, there is still more to learn. There is still a great deal of research on weight stigma that needs to be done to improve our understanding of its effects and how to eliminate it. For example, public health researchers need to examine the effects of weight stigma in diverse populations, including groups affected by racism or ageism. Understanding the effects of multiple sources of stigma (e.g., weight, race, and age) will help us to design and implement effective interventions to reduce weight stigma.
Outside of this statement, I found the roadmap to lack the depth of intersectional social justice awareness I was hoping to see, but maybe that’s coming. I mean, the word “trauma” was not used once (eeeeek, big misstep). In the meantime, here’s a few highlights of key take-aways.
We need a new focus on health instead of on weight.
1. Public health professionals should stop trying to “treat obesity” (i.e., encourage weight loss) and should instead encourage health behaviors.
2. This means we should avoid narrowly focusing on weight and instead focus on health behaviors and well-being. (HELLLLLOOOO YESSSSSSS! BODY KINDNESS!)
3. For example, we should focus on increasing healthy eating habits for all people, irrespective of their weight.
4. Focusing on health-enhancing behaviors rather than weight or weight loss has the potential to mitigate harm caused by weight-focused interventions.
5. This shift is beneficial for both public health and people living in larger bodies.
I’m curious about your thoughts on what you needed when you were growing up out of society, your home, your doctor (if you had one), and your public health programs. E-mail me or comment below.
How to avoid harm
The STRIPED roadmap contained several demands of Public Health to address weight stigma. I chose three that spoke to me to give you a taste. Get the whole meal by visiting their website.
We need to critically examine our work and monitor outcomes to ensure that we are not contributing to weight stigma.
To avoid harm, we should:
1. Consider the risk of contributing to weight stigma and eating disorders before launching a new public health campaign, intervention, or research initiative.
2. Monitor all existing nutrition, diet, physical activity, mental health, and health-screening interventions for unintended consequences related to weight stigma and eating disorder risk.
3. Ensure any marketing materials include diversity of body size/shape, race, ethnicity, gender, and appearance.
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M Hart, KB Ferreira, S Ambwani, EB Gibson, SB Austin. A Roadmap for Addressing Weight Stigma in Public Health Research, Policy, and Practice. Boston, MA: The Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED), 2020; URL: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/striped-roadmap-for-addressing-weight-stigma-in-public-health-research- policy-and-practice/