In a new interview as part of her work with It’s Bigger Than Me, a US-based campaign by healthcare company Novo Nordisk, the actor and rapper recounted how many people with obesity experience weight discrimination from medical staff.
Sharing her personal connection to the issue, the Girls Trip star – whose real name Dana Owens – toldPeople: “I saw my cousin have to deal with this issue – she was morbidly obese and she went in and out of the hospital.
“There were so many things she had to face. And for a doctor to just say, ‘Oh, you need to lose some weight.’ Well, it’s not that easy. Everyone’s bodies are not the same. We all deserve specific individual care.”
Latifah, 53, backed the campaign’s call for “inclusive obesity care” ensuring everyone can feel “welcome and respected” when they visit the doctors.
“Imagine how good it must feel when a patient walks through that door and sees the appropriate chairs or office set-up, that someone has considered them, has taken the time to think about what their needs are,” the Hairspray star said.
“There’s a sense of, ‘I’m respected here. I’m welcome here’… If you’re discouraged to get into your doctor’s office, then that’s not a good thing.”
When a person is defined as obese, this means that they are overweight “with a lot of body fat”, the NHS says.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) explains that the terms “overweight” and “obesity” are used to refer to “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”.
It is estimated 64 per cent of adults in the UK are obese or overweight.
Last summer, a British study found that obese patients were being “weight-shamed by doctors and nurses”, with weight stigmatisation pushing patients to skip appointments.
The stigmatisation leads to patients avoiding appointments, feeling depressed or anxious and being more likely to put on weight, scientists said.
The British researchers said there needed to be better education for medics over “weight stigma” to avoid this spilling into healthcare.
The scientists looked at more than 3,000 research articles on the topic to identify strategies to tackle negative biases towards overweight and obese patients.
In doing so, this could help to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis, as negative biases over weight limit access to healthcare services and treatment.