News Release

TOS endorses global editorial on people-first language and pediatric obesity

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The Obesity Society

ROCKVILLE, Md.—The Obesity Society (TOS) has joined several European, US and Canadian obesity organizations in an editorial statement published in the journal Pediatric Obesity championing the use of people-first language for pediatric overweight and obesity to address weight stigma and bias.

Professor David Thivel, president of the European Childhood Obesity Group and coordinator of the joint statement, said, "This paper emphasizes the importance of considering the use of people-first language when it comes to pediatric obesity, by all who work with, care for or support children and adolescents, in order to avoid stigmatization and to create an appropriate and optimal context to optimize their development, health and well-being. Importantly, this is the first time that the main international organizations and scientific societies working in the field of obesity have collaborated on such a joint statement.”

Aaron Kelly, PhD, co-chair of the TOS Pediatric Obesity Treatment Task Force and professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, agrees with the importance of this topic. “The issue of obesity and weight can be so highly stigmatizing and damaging to young people; so, it is imperative that we use proper language that engenders empathy and conveys compassion. Using people-first language is a seemingly small, yet powerful way, to set the right tone for kids and their families.”

Experts explain that the use of person-first and patient-first language in referring to adult obesity is gaining ground as the preferred standard. This language underscores the significance of referring to individuals as "people with obesity" instead of identifying people solely by their disease, as is commonly the case with disease-first language. Using people-first language aims to acknowledge that individuals with obesity are more than their weight, shape or size, and seeks to minimize negative bias, stigma and discrimination.

Obesity in pediatric patients is a serious disease with more than 14 million children living with the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth with obesity are at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes, among other comorbidities; in addition to continuing into adulthood with obesity.

“Using people-first language is a strong message: we care for children, put them first. Not their disease,“ said Daniel Weghuber, MD, one of the lead authors of the editorial. Weghuber is a professor of pediatrics at Paracelsus Medical School in Salzburg, Austria, and the past president of the European Childhood Obesity Group.

Other groups that have endorsed the statement include the European Childhood Obesity Group, European Association for the Study of Obesity Childhood Obesity Task Force, International Pediatric Association, World Obesity Federation, Obesity Canada and Obesity Action Coalition.

The editorial can be found in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

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The Obesity Society (TOS) is the leading organization of scientists and health professionals devoted to understanding and reversing the epidemic of obesity and its adverse health, economic and societal effects. Combining the perspective of researchers, clinicians, policymakers and patients, TOS promotes innovative research, education and evidence-based clinical care to improve the health and well-being of all people with obesity. For more information, visit

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