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Covid-19 Does Not Discriminate by Body Weight

AT THIS POINT it’s been made to seem like common sense: Larger-bodied people are at higher risk from this pandemic. “Those who are overweight really need to be careful,” France’s chief epidemiologist declared last week. “That is why we're worried about our friends in America.”

That’s weight stigma, and it’s the real issue here. Anti-fat bias has been linked to sub-par health care in a variety of ways, including providers spending less time with larger-bodied patients; speaking more curtly and less compassionately to them; and misattributing symptoms to their weight instead of referring them for testing or offering evidence-based, non-weight-related treatment options. Discrimination against higher-weight people is a known, independent risk factor for all kinds of health problems that typically get blamed on weight, including diabetes and heart disease. And Covid-19 is only amplifying this preexisting disparity. “When you take that and then you throw a pandemic on top, it’s like adding water to a grease fire,” says Joy Cox, a researcher at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Health disparities that weren’t addressed when there was an opportunity to address them have been magnified.”

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Author Christy Harrison for Wired Magazine

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