Inclusive Medical Marketing That Positively Represents Plus-Size Patients
For a long time, there has been a negative connotation about plus-sized people and automatically believing there is a medical issue with them. However, research and studies into health have shown that being plus-sized does not automatically indicate a problem with someone’s health. A skinny or thin body type is not the only type of body shape someone can live a full and enjoyable life in. However, marketing does not fully reflect this change in perspective, and medical marketing, which has pushed weight loss for years, can have inappropriate language. Many medical practices and providers may not realize that their marketing materials and language may have negative connotations. Below are some things to consider when creating medical marketing materials that positively represent plus-sized people.
What language is appropriate to use when referring to a plus-sized person?
Language changes over time and has for all of human history. Some of the terms and names for people and communities in the last half dozen decades would be considered highly insulting today but were not controversial in society at the time. The same is true today when referring to plus-sized people. “Fat” has been a word used to describe a plus-sized person in the past, but it has also been often used as an insult. As such, not everyone is comfortable with that word being used due to its negative association with an insult. With that said, some activists encourage the use so as not to give it more power as a negative word, but only with someone’s permission. “Morbidly Obese” is not an acceptable alternate term, despite its often used in the insurance industry. For a medical practice, better words to use in their marketing materials can include:
- Plus size
- Full size
Ultimately, a patient should be allowed to decide the language to use when discussing their health. Seeing or hearing words that make them uncomfortable or insult them will cause them to move on and find a different doctor who is more agreeable to them.
What is anti-fatness or fat stigma?
Anti-fatness occurs when people are denied their basic civil rights, respect, and inclusion in society based on a biased opinion of their body sizes. Anti-fatness can limit a plus-sized person’s job opportunities, use of public spaces, relationships with others, and enjoying other parts of life. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, also known as the NAAFA, says that anti-fatness and fat stigma is often associated with being sick, laziness, lack of intelligence, lack of self-care, and embracing unhealthy behavior. Western culture, according to them, often sees it as someone who has personally failed themselves.
Unfortunately, the anti-fatness attitude impacts marginalized people and genders more than others. Racially biased ideas about what body types should be will often fuel this pervasive attitude and language in society. The term “fatphobia” is often used, but some plus-body activists are starting to shy away from that term, believing it to be “ableist.” There are a lot of competing opinions about this language, so a medical practice is often best served by selecting the language that works best for its target audience. Overall, a medical practice should avoid “body shaming” or making someone feel ashamed of their body size and type.
Why should doctors avoid using body mass index or BMI when talking to patients about their health?
The concept of BMI, or body mass index, was developed almost 200 years ago in the 1830s. Initially, it was used to study trends in population over time, which involved large groups of people, not individuals. In the 1970s, BMI was used to designate people as overweight or obese and used for decades. However, research has shown that using BMI is not as accurate of a metric as it was once thought. Studies have shown those with high BMIs can live very healthy lives while those determined to have “good” or “healthy” BMIs can still suffer from numerous health issues.
High BMI scores do come with certain health conditions. However, it has not been proven that a high body mass index causes those health conditions. Instead, some studies show that those health conditions have caused increased body mass indexes. Without any definitive proof, labeling someone as “unhealthy,” “diseased,” or “morbidly obese” solely on their BMI score should not be used in marketing materials. It reinforces the fear of becoming or being a “fat” people. They will either suffer mental health stress or move on to a competitor who uses language that makes them feel more welcomed. Medical practice should avoid using BMI scores or charts featuring BMI on their website due to the increasingly negative view of this metric.
Bodies need to be validated and not considered a “work in progress.”
When creating medical marketing that positively represents plus-sized people, a medical practice needs to validate their body type and not consider it a temporary body size on a journey towards a future goal. So, the marketing materials used by a medical practice should show plus-sized people doing everyday activities, settings, and professions. They should avoid stereotypes. A medical practice should not show plus-sized people struggling to lose weight or apologizing for their body size. They should not be “making fun of themselves” for their weight, punishing themselves, or be seen making radical life changes solely in an attempt to lose weight.
“Diet Culture” is a thing and influences more than you may realize.
“Diet Culture” is a term used more frequently today. It refers to the cultural tendency to promote the constant goal of thinness and weight loss. Diet culture promotes the normalcy of obsessing over food restriction, health goals, and radical lifestyle changes to lose weight. This attitude and outlook often push the concept of “Fatness” as wrong or inferior compared to thin people. A medical practice needs to avoid promoting diet culture in their marketing materials by removing any reference to it, such as celebrating food restrictions or changing habits with the sole goal of losing weight.
Medical practices should ensure their marketing content embrace bodies as they exist. Weight gain should not be seen as wrong, and weight loss should be seen as the natural and correct path forward for all people. When creating content for marketing campaigns, avoid jokes (even if they are about the medical practice owners). Finally, show plus-sized people enjoying everyday activities and everyday foods as much as other people without promoting stereotypes.
Medical practices should not emphasize someone’s health based on weight or their self-worth on their overall health.
Society has often associated shame, guilt, illness, laziness, and a lack of intelligence with fatness. This often pushes plus-sized people to the side of society and does not allow them fully participate. This outlook toward plus-sized people needs to change, and medical practices need to take the lead in this outlook. The content for a medical marketing practice needs to clarify that a person’s health is not connected to their overall body size or weight. They should clearly show that not all large people are automatically unhealthy and their self-worth is not dependent on their body size or health. They deserve as much respect, representation, and rights as anyone else.
Marketing campaigns should feature images that have plus-sized people.
The marketing materials used by medical practices that support plus-sized people need to have them represented in their campaigns. Many campaigns only feature small, thin, young, white women. Plus-size people of all sizes and races should have equal representation in marketing campaigns. Avoid using only stock photos of thin people when creating new campaigns and try to have various body sizes. Including the entire spectrum of body sizes and shapes will only help a medical practice positively represent plus-sized people more.
A medical practice should be mindful of the language that could be seen as fat-shaming or stereotypical.
A medical practice should avoid associating changes in weight as a “struggle,” “fight,” or a “battle.” This may indicate that those pursuing a change in body size or weight change are not “fighting” for their health. Another popular marketing message promoting fat-shaming is “before” and “after” pictures. Having pictures that show someone before and after their weight loss is often seen as fat-shaming and does not promote body-positive culture. The concept of someone trying to “overcome” a plus body status is not healthy and is another form of fat-shaming. Plus-sized people should be shown as living their best lives and not be overcome by fat stigma from society.
When looking at content for medical marketing campaigns, what words should a medical practice use:
Words to use
- Full size
- Height Weight
- Fat (When given consent by a patient)
Words To Avoid
- Big boned.
A medical practice should brace for criticism.
The move towards a body-positive society is not without some resistance from others. The inclusion of plus-sized people in marketing campaigns and other aspects of society, like TV shows, has led to some backlash from groups. Opponents of body-positive outlooks claim that the positive inclusion of fat representation glorifies obesity and promotes unhealthy lifestyles. These groups often attack people for their appearance, body size, and other things. They also constantly harass celebrities. They generally do not care about the mental stress they create with their unguided and unwanted opinions. With that in mind, a medical practice should be prepared for some negative pushback during marketing campaigns. This can appear in the form of social media comments, emails, phone calls, or in some cases, even handwriting letters. While this pushback may be noisy, they are just a loud minority. Many medical practices are best served by ignoring or blocking negative commenters rather than conversing with them.
What are some best practices for medical practices if they want to create medical marketing that positively represents plus-sized people?
Below are some great tips for medical practices who want to include a positive representation of plus-sized people.
- When using third-party vendors to provide services, like creating videos, managing social media, or writing blogs, a medical practice should seek out vendors with body positivity experience. Their content and media creations should feature a variety of body types and positive language about body sizes.
- As important as marketing is for a medical practice, so is what people see when they seek out medical treatment. Ensure a medical practice’s hiring practices do not preclude plus-sized people from being hired. A plus-sized person will feel more welcomed at their appointment if they see people with similar body sizes.
- Review content to ensure that it has body-positive language or uses neutral vocabulary. Any content, scripts, images, or previous social media posts should be edited or removed and replaced with more appropriate information. Content should avoid language about needing to lose weight to feel better or live a better life.
- A medical practice’s facility should be plus-sized friendly as well. Body-positive content and marketing materials will do little good if a medical practice can not provide a body-positive experience. Things like having armless chairs, higher weight capacity equipment, and equipment accommodating plus-sized bodies are necessary.
- Finally, ensure digital intake paperwork has a section where patients can inform their doctor about how they want their weight to be handled. They may prefer specific terms not to be used, and some patients may not want to be weighed. Indicate this on intake paperwork and ensure all staff is trained to look at this section to feel welcomed.
What is the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance?
Also known as the NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was founded in 1969. Today it is a nonprofit fats right organization that works to improve the quality of life for plus-sized people and protects their rights. Its mission is to end body size discrimination and change people’s perception of what a “healthy size” can be.
The NAAFA works to help plus-sized people within every marginalized identity. They use education and advocacy to help effect change for all people and communities worldwide. Being a well-recognized advocacy group, the NAAFA uses its connections and reputation to help affect change in communities that improve the lives of plus-sized people. They believe that all plus-sized persons face stigma about their weight. Plus-size persons in other marginalized identities are often impacted more by anti-fatness views and diet culture. The organization believes they face additional challenges and need more support.
The NAAFA is an excellent resource for medical practices to improve their education about plus-sized persons to generate better medical marketing content.
The experts at PatientGain.com are available to help you create a high-performance healthcare website that uses body positive language and concepts. Contact us today, and let us show you what we have done for other practices across the country!