Weight Inclusive Health programs teach students to look beyond the scale

April 16, 2024

Weight stigma - discrimination against individuals due to their weight and size - is a growing problem in the United States. Unfortunately, one of the places it often appears is in healthcare, where it can result in weight shaming, missed diagnoses, and even denial of care. The School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness (SNSW) is addressing this issue head-on with two undergraduate programs in Weight Inclusive Health.

SNSW has offered an 18-unit minor and 12-unit undergraduate certificate in Weight Inclusive Health since 2023. Both programs challenge the notion that body weight is an effective proxy for health, instead offering alternative frameworks that emphasize non-weight-based markers of health and wellness. They also offer instruction in concepts like intuitive-eating, health at every size (HAES®) and weight-neutral care and counseling practices.

So far, the two programs have been well-received by students.

"We've seen such a positive response," said Ashley Munro, MPH, RDN, one of the driving forces behind the programs. "Our enrollment has improved each semester, and the engagement has been amazing."

The Weight Inclusive Health curriculum meets an urgent need in healthcare fields, according to Katelyn Barker, MS, RDN, an assistant professor of practice in SNSW who designed the programs along with Munro.

"Ours is one of the only undergraduate programs I'm aware of that offers specific curriculum in weight inclusive practices," she said. "The skills our students are learning will help in the future, when they might be working with folks who are struggling with their relationships with food and bodies. They'll have a wider skill set than what is traditionally offered."

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