An Imperfect Fit: Obesity, Public Health, and Disability Anti-Discrimination Law
Adam R. Pulver
Columbia University - Law School; U.S. Department of Labor
November 30, 2007
Over the past several years, "obesity activists," as well as many disability rights and critical legal theorists, have increasingly argued for the inclusion of obesity as a "disability" under anti-discrimination law, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At the same time, public health leaders, both inside and outside the legal field, continue to promote active interventions to combat the growing prevalence of obesity in America, which they see as a major health problem. These two campaigns are not complementary, and in many ways are antithetical to one another.
This article explores the inherent tensions between a campaign to reduce obesity in the American population and the calls of obesity activists to "normalize" their weight, particularly through the protection of disability anti-discrimination law. After examining how obesity fails to qualify as a disability under existing federal law, the article examines why making obesity a protected class may have negative public health outcomes for the population.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 56
Keywords: obesity, disability, ADA, public health, law and economics, deterrence, fat, overweight, discrimination, disabilities, anti-discrimination, antidiscrimination
JEL Classification: M50, M51, K31, K32, J7, J71, J78, J2, J00, I00, I1, I12, I18
Date posted: December 15, 2008