Dr. Shannon Jette, assistant professor of kinesiology in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, is part of a team that has been awarded a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for $230,130 to support the project “Reproducing Stigma: Obesity and Women’s Experience of Reproductive Care”. This project seeks to understand how health practitioners address obesity concerns with patients and the role of physical activity in their advice, particularly regarding pregnant women classified as obese.
Obesity is regarded as a significant health problem by medical research, government policymakers and the media. Research is beginning to show that obese women are routinely denied fertility care because of medical research citing complications for the woman and her (potential) fetus, including miscarriage, premature birth, and autism. The discrimination experienced by obese women could also cause negative health effects relating to high stress levels associated with discrimination.
“Our research will help us to better understand the stigma obese women may face while accessing reproductive care, which has implications for the health of women and babies,” Dr. Jette said.
Dr. Jette’s project aims to provide an analysis of the stigma – that obese women are considered “risks to both themselves and their children, therefore, believed to be “bad mothers.” The team seeks to understand how this stigma impacts the health care of women attempting to conceive.
The grant will allow Dr. Jette and colleagues to conduct policy analysis, in-depth interviews, and digital storytelling. The research answers questions by interviewing women about their experience in receiving fertility care, healthcare workers about providing care to obese women, and policy makers about setting guidelines related to reproduction and obesity.
The study will occur in three Canadian cities – Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal. By focusing nationally, the research will contribute to ethical and effective care in Canada via provincial comparison and collaboration, and to suggest through the education of health professionals, more ethical ways of approaching obesity in the healthcare setting.