When you jump to the conclusion that body weight is linked to severity of COVID-19 symptoms you’re promoting old prejudices that you may not be aware of. This article does a great job in analyzing the evidence and the prejudicial thinking that we need to avoid. There are many socioeconomic factors that lead to worse health outcomes. Instead of putting everyone on a diet and putting personal blame on those who suffer the most from the coronavirus, perhaps we should be working to eradicate racism, poverty, lack of access to health insurance, and lack of basic job protections.
“Obesity appears to be one of the biggest risk factors related to Covid-19 hospitalizations and critical illness,” Newsweek claimed on Tuesday. Yet this rhetoric is based on flawed and limited evidence, which only exacerbates the stigma that larger-bodied people already face in society and our health care system. That stigma is what truly jeopardizes their health, not weight itself—a fact that’s only more important to consider in the midst of this pandemic.
All of these reports are flawed in similar ways. Most important, none of them control for race, socioeconomic status, or quality of care—social determinants of health that we know explain the lion’s share of health disparities between groups of people. Structural racism and other forms of inequality in our society have long been linked to worse health outcomes, including higher rates of diabetes and hypertension (two likely Covid-19 risk factors) among people in oppressed groups. Now, those health disparities are on full display in the Covid-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately impacting black communities—not because of biology, but because of systemic inequalities like higher rates of exposure to the virus and less access to medical care.
And then there’s this recent research that doesn’t show body weight as an independent risk variable.