NEW YORK, April 2, 2010 - The television news and entertainment media are missing the mark when it comes to communicating realistic and helpful information about health and weight to Americans, according to an expert media panel assembled today at Pace University in New York City. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance organized the program, called "Weighty Matters," to uncover some of the biggest hurdles in discussing size and weight and recommend ways to effectively and responsibly communicate the connection between health and weight to the public.
The program was unprecedented as it brought together for the first time NEDA and the Alliance as well as experts from the obesity and eating disorders communities. Representatives from NEDA and the Alliance said that increasing public concern about the rise in obesity has led to societal confusion about what's healthy and has created an unrealistic pressure to be thin.
"There persists a string of television network reality and drama programs focused on extreme weight loss. A flood of images featuring unrealistically thin models line magazines and ads. And a nearly $50 billion diet and weight loss industry hocks products in every venue possible. It's no wonder our country has a problem with weight," said Diana Williams of WABC-TV. "There is a lack of information and understanding about weight and health in our culture and it's resulting in both skyrocketing rates of obesity and eating disordered behavior."
Williams moderated a panel that included: Emme, Model and Activist, NEDA Ambassador; Dr. Max Gomez, Medical Reporter, WCBS-TV; Kate Dailey, Health and Lifestyles Editor, Newsweek.com; Wendy Naugle, Deputy Editor, Glamour Magazine; Dr. Donna Ryan, President, The Obesity Society; Jen Drexler, Partner, Just Ask a Woman; Joe Nadglowski, Jr., President & CEO, Obesity Action Coalition; and, Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, Past President, NEDA, also representing AED, IAEDP and BEDA. The roundtable addressed current perception, dialogue and images in media and entertainment which may be resulting in an increase in body image issues, eating disordered behaviors and obesity.
"We need to address the societal pressures and the unrealistic images bombarding us from the media that have been scientifically proven to be a contributing factor among people who develop eating disorders, depression and other esteem issues," said Lynn Grefe, CEO of NEDA. "These pressures affect all of us; whether we are struggling with obesity or an eating disorder, it's important that we come together to address the problem."
NEDA and the Alliance said it's time we tackle negative effects of the media's promotion of unrealistic body images and gather experts to discuss these important issues. The NEDA and Alliance panel discussed the pervasive stigma associated with both obesity and eating disorders in this country and explored ways the media can help to address and reduce the negative impact of stigma.
"So frequently, individuals suffering from both obesity and eating disorders are stigmatized for the conditions. However, no evidence suggests that stigmatizing overweight and obese individuals or those suffering from an eating disorder is a motivator," said Christine Ferguson, J.D., Director of the STOP Obesity Alliance. "This is an important opportunity for members of both the obesity and eating disorders communities to advocate together for a focus on health and lifestyle rather than weight as a measure of well-being."
About the National Eating Disorders Association
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., a not-for-profit organization, supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders and advocates for prevention, treatment and research funding for eating disorders. Since the inception of its Helpline in 1999, NEDA has referred more than 50,000 people to treatment and tallies more than 40 million hits annually on its Web site. For more information on eating disorders, visit www.NationalEatingDisorders.org.
About the STOP Obesity Alliance
The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance is a collaboration of consumer, provider, government, labor, business, health insurers and quality-of-care organizations united to drive innovative and practical strategies that combat obesity. The STOP Obesity Alliance is directed by Research Professor Christine C. Ferguson, J.D., of The George Washington University's Department of Health Policy and former Health Commissioner for the State of Massachusetts. Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th U.S. Surgeon General and President of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute, serves as Health and Wellness Chairperson of the Alliance. The Alliance Steering Committee is comprised of the following public and private sector organizations: America's Health Insurance Plans, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Group Association, Canyon Ranch Institute, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO), DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance, National Business Group on Health, National Quality Forum, The Obesity Society, Partnership for Prevention, Reality Coalition, Service Employees International Union and Trust for America's Health. The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance receives funding from founding sponsor, sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC, and supporting sponsors, Allergan, Inc. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. For more information, visit www.stopobesityalliance.org.