Healthwatch Essex announces new research project: Weight of Stigma (WoS)

This year, World Obesity Day coincides with the beginning of our new research project, Weight of Stigma. Despite similar levels of obesity between men and women (in 2017, 27% of men and 30% of women in England were living with obesity), previous qualitative research has focused almost entirely on the experiences of women. With this in mind, the WoS project aims to understand men’s lived experience of obesity and to bring their voice to the forefront of research.

The health risks associated with obesity and its prevalence have been widely documented; click here for current statistics by the World Health Organisation. Yet, studying the experiences of those living with obesity has only recently been recognised as offering valuable insight into the successes, failures and challenges of weight management services and treatment.

While the global prevention and reduction message for obesity continues to focus on individuals taking ‘greater responsibility’ for health-related behaviours. national public health authorities have started to encourage local public health stakeholders to work together in a more effective fashion. Public Health England (2019) have called for such partnerships and collaborative working within local communities. A great example of this is the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System who have recognised and emphasised the powerful impact lived experiences have upon outcomes for service users. Essex County Council have also underlined obesity, diet and physical activity as a priority area of focus within their 2018-22 Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Lived experience is at the heart of our work at Healthwatch Essex and we use it to have positive impact on the redesign and improvement of local services. For this project, we will conduct interviews to identify and consider how and why men enter, drop-out of and navigate weight management and treatment services and, where possible, why some men do not engage with available services.

The study could generate implications for the design of weight management services and help encourage and improve the rate at which men engage with health services more generally.