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Obesity stigma: A newly recognized barrier to comprehensive and effective type 2 diabetes management


  • M. Elizabeth Teixeira DrNP, ANP-BC, CDE (Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of Graduate Clinical Education),

    1.  Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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  • Geraldine M. Budd PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP (Assistant Dean and Associate Professor)

    1.  School of Nursing, Harrisburg Campus, Widener University, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
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M. Elizabeth Teixeira, DrNP, ANP-BC, CDE,
Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, 245 N. 15th Street, Bellet Bldg. #723, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
Tel: (609) 443-1150; Fax: (609) 443-0041; E-mail:


Abstract Purpose: The purpose of this article is to increase awareness regarding the social problem of obesity stigma and its effects on persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). In addition, practical strategies to dispel stigma and improve diabetes care that nurse practitioners (NPs) can integrate into practice will be introduced.

Data sources: Thorough review of the literature was conducted including MEDLINE, PsycINFO and CINAHL, spanning the years 1994–2008.

Conclusions: Obesity and diabetes are both epidemics that demand immediate attention; however, obesity stigma can act as a barrier to ongoing management of both conditions. Obese patients with T2DM may feel responsible not only for their weight but also their diabetes. Therefore, NPs can employ specific counseling strategies that may be beneficial with T2DM obese patients to improve continuity of care while decreasing weight-related stigmatization.

Implications for practice: Negative attitudes toward obesity by healthcare professionals can act as a barrier to diabetes management. Primary care providers including NPs must begin through self-reflection to recognize their own attitudes regarding weight-stigma and how these attitudes may affect their patients. By implementing effective strategies to reduce weight bias, an environment conducive to diabetes and lifestyle modification management may prevent patients from forgoing care.