British health workers dealing with the rising epidemic of obesity have been warned that referring to overweight patients as obese can be construed as derogatory.
Charged with tackling rising obesity levels, public health workers employed by councils have been issued new guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) regarding the type of language they use when referring to obesity.
The Irish Times reported advice on appropriate language to use when dealing with obesity was issued when a new study concluded that referring to overweight patients as obese could be considered derogatory. Ironically, the study is entitled "Obesity: Working with Local Communities."
New NICE guidelines instruct council officials to use euphemisms. They say "For example, it might be better to refer to a 'healthier weight' rather than 'obesity' – and to talk more generally about health and wellbeing or specific community issues." (Daily Mail). Officials are advised to skirt around the issue avoiding the word obese, even as they attempt to tackle obesity.
Some believe the new guidelines have gone too far. Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said "This is extremely patronising. They should be talking to people in an adult fashion. There should be no problem with using the proper terminology. If you beat around the bush then you muddy the water."