What’s in a name? A lot, if the word ‘obesity’ is gone


Instead of opening my post by chatting and eventually getting around to my topic, let me make like a journalist and offer an actual lede. Here goes:

The main research center for food policy and weight discrimination research, the Rudd Center, just changed its name this week.

You may be thinking, okay, thanks for the info. Now onto the next thing.

Hang on a sec! I forgot the most important part of the name change. The Rudd Center used to be called The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Logo of the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (with a globe that looks like an apple)

As of Monday (that’s when I got the email), the Rudd Center had changed its name to The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health.

New banner for the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health, with apple graphic on the left and image of extremely cute kid in the background, possibly holding a piece of fruit.
New banner for the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health, with apple graphic on the left and image of extremely cute kid in the background, possibly holding a piece of fruit.

Wow.

A "wow" emoji as the o in wow, for emphasis. Cool.
A “wow” emoji as the o in wow, for emphasis. Cool.

This is big. No longer using the word “obesity” which I really dislike (read more about why in my post here) represents a shift in the ways a major research and policy center thinks and acts about food practices and population health. Here’s what the Rudd folks have to say about it:

This change reflects how our work has evolved over the past 15 years. When the Rudd Center was founded, the majority of our research focused on strategies to reduce obesity rates. Although many of our current initiatives remain grounded in the idea that improving the food environment will promote better nutrition, we now study a range of health outcomes, and focus on several specific populations. Among our newer areas of work are: food insecurity; the whole school, whole community, whole child model; minimum wage policies; and LGBTQ youth.  

We remain dedicated to using research to inform policy; fighting weight bias and discrimination through research, education, and advocacy; studying the social, economic, and structural drivers of diet quality and health equity; and reducing the harm of food marketing to youth. 

For years, the Rudd Center has been at the vanguard of research into ways our industrial food system and flawed healthcare system harms children, exacerbates health disparities and discriminates against fatter people. But this conscious and very public shift away from research on obesity rates, including getting rid of that word (ob*sity), sends a clear message: we’re not interested in researching about body weight. We’re interested in researching about food policy, access and discrimination. Here’s what they’re focusing on these days:

  • early care and education
  • food marketing
  • food policy
  • food security
  • schools
  • weight bias and stigma

Name changes are powerful. They signify changes in identity, changes in the ways we view the world and changes in the ways we view ourselves. This name change is one that I welcome with open arms.

If you are interested in learning more about the work the Rudd Center does, check out their website here.

Readers, does this seem like good news to you? Do you dislike the word ob*sity as much as I do? Any thoughts you have are most welcome.

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