Call for Papers: Do No Harm: Fattening Pedagogy for Current and Future Health Care Providers

Heather Brown's picture
Call for Papers
July 1, 2019 to September 1, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Health and Health Care, Public Health, Social Sciences, Social Work, Teaching and Learning

Call for Chapters


Do No Harm: Fattening Pedagogy for Current and Future Health Care Providers

Edited by Heather A. Brown and Nancy Ellis-Ordway



Abstracts due: September 1, 2019; Notification of acceptance: October 1, 2019; Submission of full chapter: March 1, 2020


To submit a proposal for inclusion in this collection, send a 300-500 word abstract, saved in a .doc or .docx file, along with a short biography to: Abstracts must be received by September 1, 2019 to be considered.  Proposal currently is under consideration at a major academic publisher.


Fat Studies “is an interdisciplinary field of scholarship marked by an aggressive, consistent, rigorous critique of the negative assumptions, stereotypes, and stigma placed on fat and the fat body. The field of fat studies invites scholars to pause, interrupt the everyday thinking about fat (or failure to think), and do something daring and bold” (Solovay & Rothblum, 2009, p. 2). This proposed collection invites proposals for chapters from scholars who wish to be daring and bold in rethinking, from a critical perspective, how we teach current and future health care providers about weight, health, and fat people.


The health care field is rife with anti-fat bias and discrimination against fat people. More than 50% of doctors describe their fat patients as ugly, lazy, noncompliant, weak-willed, dishonest, and unintelligent (Campbell et al., 2000; Ferrante et al., 2009; Fogelman et al., 2002; Foster, Wadden, Makris, Davidson, Sanderson, Allison, & Kessler, 2003 Hebl & Xu, 2001; Huizinga et al., 2010; Price et al., 1987; Puhl & Heuer, 2009). Among nurses, 24% admit to being repulsed by fat patients, preferring not to care for them (Puhl & Brownell, 2001). Future health care providers exhibit similar beliefs.  Medical students describe fat people as unpleasant, sloppy, and lacking in self-control (Blumberg & Mellis, 1980; Keane, 1990; Persky & Eccleston, 2011; Wigton & McGaghie, 2001). And fat individuals know their health care providers are biased against them. Nearly 70% of fat women have reported receiving bias from a doctor (Puhl & Brownell, 2006). As a result, many fat patients avoid seeking preventative care, leading to poorer health outcomes than non-fat individuals with similar illnesses (Amy et al.,2006).


The prevalence of anti-fat bias and discrimination among health care providers and the consequences of that bias are so problematic that organizations like the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have developed a series of online learning modules to help providers learn about the negative effects of weight bias on health and on fat people’s access to healthcare. Yet, this work is still situated within a framework arguing that health is improved through weight loss. Fat Studies, as a field, offers an alternative.


Fat Studies is a field that approaches “the construction of fat and fatness with a critical methodology – the same sort of progressive, systematic academic rigor with which we approach negative attitudes and stereotypes about women, queer people, and racial groups” (Solovay & Rothblum, 2009, p. 2).  Moreover, Fat Studies is a field focused on the lived experience of real people. Placing the experiences of the fat individual at the heart of research and practice is vitally important because research that utilizes the dominant medical paradigm often does not address fat individuals as real, self-defining people, instead treating them as either statistics or tissue to be manipulated and changed for their own good.


Finally, Fat Studies argues that the dominant discourse establishing “obesity” as a medical problem or a disease must be problematized. Weight is never just a medical issue to be addressed using medical solutions; it is more complex than that. Issues of health and disease in fat individuals are often conflated with issues of morality. “When we define fatness as a disease we are acting within powerful social boundaries which control what we believe to be right and appropriate, or shameful and abnormal” (Cooper, 1998, p. 71). This is especially true when fatness is presented as a temporary, fixable “problem” that is wholly under the control of the individual (Cooper, 1998). Under such a framing, the fat individual becomes a pariah, responsible for all the hate and bias aimed at them, issues that would go away if only the fat person would just lose weight. “Belief in a ‘cure’ also masks that hatred. It is not possible to hate a group of people for our own good. Medicalization actually helps categorize fat people as social untouchables” (Wann, 2009, p. xiv). As social untouchables responsible for their own stigmatization, fat individuals become unworthy of the rights of “normal” citizens, including access to unbiased and supportive health care that is not focused on weight loss as the cure for each and every ailment.


This collection seeks contributions that address how we can “fatten” pedagogy for current and future health care providers. How can we address anti-fat bias in the seminal stages of medical education? How can alternative frameworks, such as Health at Every Size™, be successfully incorporated into training new doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, including physical therapist, dietitians, social workers, etc.? Given the rapidly changing understanding of health and nutrition, how can continuing education be used to help current medical professionals address already existing bias and discrimination? What works and what fails in teaching health care providers to truly care for the health of fat individuals without further stigmatizing them or harming them?


Do No Harm welcomes but is not limited to scholarly analysis, primary research, critical personal narrative, and artistic works. This is an interdisciplinary collection that includes scholarly and political work. Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):


  • The history of anti-fat bias in the medical professions
  • Lived experiences of fat patients (positive and negative)
  • Impact of policies treating weight as a disease
  • Problematizing the weight and health connection
  • Anti-fat bias as distraction from social determinants of health
  • The ethics of anti-fat medical education
  • Fatness and/as disability
  • Fatness and maternal health
  • Fatness and children’s health
  • Fatness and senior health
  • Fatness and eating disorders
  • Fatness and mental health
  • Intersectionality and fat health
  • Fitness and fatness
  • The moral and health implications of weight loss procedures
  • Addressing anti-fat bias in medical education (theory and practice)
  • Continuing education on fatness for health care providers
  • Supporting fat individuals in seeking medical care
  • Research-to-practice examples of successful pedagogical techniques; examples of failures and analysis of why the practice was unsuccessful


About the Editors

Dr. Heather A. Brown earned an Ed.D. in Adult and Higher Education from Northern Illinois University. Her research is focused on the connections between weight and learning and how to promote academic achievement in fat women in postsecondary education. Currently, she works as a writing coach for health studies college.


Dr. Nancy Ellis-Ordway is a psychotherapist with 30 years' experience, specializing in treating eating disorders, body image issues, stress, anxiety, depression and relationship issues. She earned a Master of Social Work degree from Washington University and has a Ph.D. in Health Education and Promotion from the University of Missouri.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Heather A. Brown