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'Obese' label may offend - warning

Telling overweight patients they are obese could be seen as "derogatory", a health watchdog has warned.

Public health workers have been told that patients may respond better if they are encouraged to achieve a "healthier weight" rather than being labelled obese, under draft guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The advice is included in NICE's paper entitled Obesity: Working with Local Communities and urges health professionals to use "appropriate language" to help obese patients.

It said: "The term 'obesity' may be unhelpful - while some people may like to 'hear it like it is', others may consider it derogatory."

It continued: "Directors of public health and local government communications leads should carefully consider the type of language and media to use to communicate about obesity.

"For example, it might be better to refer to a 'healthier weight' rather than 'obesity' - and to talk more generally about health and wellbeing or specific community issues."

The advice prompted opposition from some health campaigners.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, told the Daily Telegraph: "This is extremely patronising. They should be talking to people in an adult fashion.

"There should be no problem with using the proper terminology. If you beat around the bush then you muddy the water."