When you’re considered overweight or obese there are countless everyday issues causing a constant stream of anxiety to hit you. One of the biggest comes from going to the doctor. No matter what the problem is, the topic of conversation inevitably turns to your weight. You could be in the ER with a broken arm from a car accident and I guarantee some doctor or nurse will try to make it about your size. The feeling that not even professionals can see past your weight causes people suffering from obesity to avoid getting proper healthcare. However, actress/singer Queen Latifah is partnering with It’s Bigger Than Me on the Inclusive Obesity Care Initiative to help educate those in the obesity community on how to get healthcare without judgment. The Oscar nominee spoke to The Root about why this issue is so important to her, why she decided to become its spokesperson and how she hopes it changes the conversation around weight.
The Inclusive Obesity Care Initiative is working to create healthcare that is “compassionate, attentive, and respectful.” It’s Bigger Than Me has created a community where patients and doctors can feel comfortable discussing their issues in receiving proper healthcare. As part of the program, It’s Bigger Than Me and Novo Nordisk created a symbol for healthcare providers and patients to show their support for the initiative as well as signal to others that they’re in a space where they can talk openly about their weight. In the future, the program will also provide information on how doctors and patients can talk about obesity honestly without judgment.
“This Inclusive Obesity Care Initiative is really about that. It’s creating this symbol that connects us to our healthcare, to our doctors, their awareness of obesity and all of the symptoms and stigma that’s surrounding it in the conversation between doctor and patient,” Queen Latifah told The Root. “A lot of people do not seek the proper healthcare because they’ve had a bad conversation with their doctor. Someone that they’re supposed to trust and feel comfortable with has immediately made them feel completely uncomfortable and not so positive about sharing information.”
For those of you who only see us as fat people who eat too much and don’t exercise, allow me to educate you. Obesity is a disease. A lot of what causes your body to be a certain size has nothing to do with your diet or lifestyle. Does it help if you live healthier? Yes, of course. But there’s also genetics and environment at play. However, since it’s more fun to just call someone fat and lazy, most people don’t care about the science behind obesity. It’s Bigger Than Me is working to change the language around the topic, so we can create more understanding.
“That’s the reason that It’s Bigger Than Me was launched in the first place. For people to understand that it is not just some kind of character flaw, or you’re not being lazy, or this is not some sort of choice,” she said. “If you label this with another disease’s name, people will be much less likely to mock you, to make a joke out of it. We have to continue to make sure people are educated so that they can reframe how they think about things.”
In the Black community, we don’t always go to the doctor when we need to. We also don’t ask the questions we need to because the whole exercise of seeking healthcare is extremely stressful for people of color. The It’s Bigger Than Me website has resources for both doctors and patients to help them understand the issues related to obesity and have better communication.
“You have to feel empowered when you go to your doctor, so that you feel comfortable asking them questions, telling them how you feel, and even questioning some of their answers,” the legendary rapper said. “We can’t feel so ashamed that we don’t go to the doctor when we know something’s not right.”