The importance of language in engagement between health-care professionals and people living with obesity: a joint consensus statement

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2020 May;8(5):447-455. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(20)30102-9.


Obesity is a chronic condition that requires long-term management and is associated with unprecedented stigma in different settings, including during interactions with the health-care system. This stigma has a negative effect on the mental and physical health of people with obesity and can lead to avoidance of health care and disruption of the doctor-patient relationship. Considerable evidence exists to suggest that simply having a conversation about obesity can lead to weight loss, which translates into health benefits. However, both health-care practitioners and people living with obesity report apprehension in initiating this conversation. We have collaborated with stakeholders from Obesity UK, physicians, dieticians, clinical psychologists, obesity researchers, conversation analysts, nurses, and representatives from National Health Service England Diabetes and Obesity. This group has contributed to the production of this consensus statement, which addresses how people living with obesity wish to have their condition referred to and provides practical guidance for health-care professionals to facilitate collaborative and supportive discussions about obesity. Expert stakeholders consider that changes to language used at the point of care can alleviate the stigma of obesity within the health-care system and support improved outcomes for both people living with obesity and for the health-care system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consensus*
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Social Stigma