Health & Wellness

Still a Stigma Associated with Weight-Loss Surgery, Einstein Survey Shows

By on 03/01/2018
Ramsey Dallal, MD

Ramsey Dallal, MD

Obesity is so universally acknowledged as an overwhelming issue in this country that a majority of individuals would be supportive of someone getting bariatric surgery—so long as that someone isn’t themselves.

Nine out of 10 Philadelphians would support a friend or family member having surgery, according to a recent survey conducted by Einstein Healthcare Network. But nearly half that number would be ashamed to admit to friends or extended family that they’ve had weight-loss surgery themselves.

In both instances, Philadelphians largely mirror the opinions of people across the country: 39 percent of our city’s residents would be ashamed to admit they had bariatric surgery, compared to 45 percent nationally. And 90 percent would support someone else, slightly more than the national figure of 87 percent.

“Obesity is still viewed as a sin, not as a medical condition,” said Ramsey Dallal, MD, chief of bariatrics at Einstein.

Philadelphia is among the cities with the highest incidence of obesity, according to the CDC.

“Obesity is still viewed as a sin, not as a medical condition.”

Bariatric surgery has been shown to improve or cure many obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. Often patients can limit or stop taking medication after surgery. Despite that, the stigma still remains—in part, no doubt, because most people believe obesity is avoidable. Approximately three quarters of adults in Philadelphia and nationally believe that it’s caused by poor diet and lifestyle, rather than genetics or medical conditions.

“Much of society still discriminates against those with the disease of obesity because skinniness is seen as a virtue,” Dr. Dallal said.

“We do not discriminate against those with cancer or heart disease, even though they may have put themselves at risk for developing those conditions through smoking, for instance.”

The survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, polled 500 adults in the Philadelphia area over the age of 18, and 1,000 nationally representative adults over the age of 18.

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