Tuesday 20th June 2017: The use of negtaive imagary and language in communications contributes to weight-related stigma, an expert seminar in Belfast heard today. The All Island Obesity Action Forum is hosted by safefood in collaboration with the Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland (ASOI) and the Northern Ireland Regional Group, of the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO, UK). The forum  highligh how stigmatization can have a negative effect on those who need help the most when it comes to their weight. At the conference, safefood also announced plans for a workshop with media to explore the role of communications and weight stigma.


Dr Grace O’Malley, Chair of the ASOI continued ”In clinical settings, we witness the effects of obesity on the physical and psychoemotional health  of children and adults. All too often, individuals are stigmatized due to their shape or weight in school, in healthcare, in work, online or just walking around their neighbourhood. This can have devastating effects on them and influence how or whether they interact with the health service. We each have a role to play in tackling this issue –  promoting and modeling  a healthier lifestyle, enabling a healthier environment, improving access to treatment for patients or portraying weight and obesity in the media in a much more respectful way.”


Seminar delegates heard leading experts from across the UK and island of Ireland present the latest research findings in the area of weight stigma, its negative effects on physical and mental health, and the strategies being used to combat weight stigma. In addition an ASOI patient representative described a personal account of experiencing weight-related stigma. He highlighted the responsibilities of society in general and the key role played by health professionals in creating a person-centered environment based on mutual respect and dignity.


Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan is Director of Human Health & Nutrition with safefood “Much in the same way as we’ve moved the conversation from ‘mental illness’ to ‘mental health’, so we need to do the same with weight issues and obesity on the island of Ireland. By persisting with this stigmatizing notion that adults and children with obesity are somehow ‘different’ from everyone else in society, we’re being unfair and making things worse – those who need help often avoid health services because of this.”


Dr Laura McGowan, Queen’s University Belfast and Regional NI Lead for (ASO UK) added “Obesity is not a lifestyle choice, it is a disease with multiple causes needing a multi-layered response. One of those responses is raising awareness of obesity stigma and taking steps to reduce this stigma. This event is a first step among those working in public health on the island of Ireland.”

You can follow and join in the conversation at the seminar on Twitter by using #obesityforum. To find out more about safefood or the work of the All island Obesity Action Forum, visit www.safefood.eu




For further information or to request an interview, please contact:

Russell Lever/Vicki Caddy


Tel: 028 9080 2000

Mob: 077 8828 8901 (Russell Lever) / 078 1438 0487 (Vicki Caddy)

Email: russell@asgandpartners.com / vicki@asgandpartners.com




Dermot Moriarty/Julie Carroll Safefood

Tel: 00353 1 448 0600

Mob: 00353 86 381 1034 (Dermot)/ 00353 86 150 3047 (Julie)




Editor’s Notes:

Established in December 2008 to support the implementation of obesity policies in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the All Island Obesity Action Forum brings together a wide range of stakeholders from over 31 different organisations. Members come from the areas of both food and physical activity. By facilitating the exchange of best practice and by promoting networking and collaboration, the Forum provides an ideal platform for partnership and cohesive working on the island of Ireland.