Weight Based Bullying- Can Healthcare Providers Help?
In the United States alone, obesity affects close to 30% of the youth. That makes it more of national concern than just a weight issue. Other than the high rate of childhood obesity, there has been sufficient studies done all of which documents bullying and teasing of those that are plagued by obesity.
While the cases seem to be more prevalent in middle and high school, there are cases that have been recorded as early as preschool. Children express stereotypical attitudes and negative comments towards their friends who are thought to be overweight or obese. Needless to mention, overtime, weight-based bullying has become well established. Consequently, this makes it more than likely that youth fighting obesity will be bullied compared to their thinner classmates. Evidence also indicates that the chances of a child being bullied in the future can be greatly determined by the status of their weight.
Parents and even the school system both view weight based bullying as the most common form of bullying that is faced by the youth. This without considering the weight of the child or even that of their parents. Teachers further corroborate these findings by reporting a link between a high BMI and a victimization and especially in school.
In 2011, there was a study that was conducted by the National Education Association. The study interviewed teachers who thought that weight based bullying was the most hectic form of bullying in schools. To further solidify the findings of this study, there was an annual survey conducted by the PACER’S National Bullying Prevention Center that found that of all the teenagers that had been interviewed, of those that had witnessed any form of bullying, 62% of those agree that weight was a common aggressor in the bullying episodes.
What makes the situation even worse is the fact that this kind of bullying is not constricted to classes or peers. Studies show that this cases spill over to family members and even parents and teachers.
Consequences of Weight Based Bullying
Youths that are subjected to weight based bullying risk suffering depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even have a poor body image. They also have a higher chance of committing suicide.
Also, youths that are subjected to this kind of bullying have also been noted to suffer from disordered eating, binge eating among other eating disorders. They’re also reported to have reduced motivation and lack of interest in physical activities or exercise.
The Role of Healthcare Professionals
One of the best ways that healthcare professionals can tackle the weight-based bullying demon is to look for signs of the vice and share their concerns with the parents of the affected kids. It is critical for the healthcare professionals to mind their language when discussing body weight issues with the child or the parents. It is also critical for them to ask if there’re any support systems in place for the child who is facing bullying.
Healthcare providers can also help to implement strategies and policies that protect obese youths from weight-based bullying and the consequences that come with it.
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