The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

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227: Diversity and Inclusivity in Healthcare with Lesley Williams, MD

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Dr. Lesley Williams-bio-pic

Everyone deserves access to healthcare and respect from healthcare providers – regardless of shape, body size, or skin color. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. According to BMC Medicine, weight stigma is particularly prevalent and detrimental in healthcare settings, with documented high levels of ‘anti-fat’ bias in healthcare providers, patients with obesity receiving poorer care and having worse outcomes 

Today’s guest, Dr. Lesley Williams, is trying to change the narrative. Dr. Williams is a board certified family medicine physician and a certified eating disorder specialist. Her years working in the mental health field led her to become an advocate for body positivity and size diversity. Dr. Williams is also a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare. 

In this episode, Dr. Williams explains the importance of weight independent healthcare, including the BMI and it’s racial implications. She discusses racism’s effect on health, her own personal experiences with racism, and how important it is to embrace curiosity in healthcare.

Dr. Williams touches briefly on the importance of health equity and her adoption of the HAES model in healthcare. She discusses her children’s book Free to Be Me: Self Love for All Sizes and why she wrote it. Lastly, she leaves listeners with a tangible tip to combat weight stigma culture.

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Interview Highlights (with timestamps):
  • [6:16] Realizing the importance of positive self image and body diversity
  • [9:02] The importance of weight independent healthcare
  • [11:00] The truth about BMI and it’s racial implications
  • [15:17] Embracing curiosity
  • [19:27] Racism and its effect on health
  • [21:35] Dr. Lesley’s personal experience with race
  • [35:13] Health equity
  • [39:37] Using HAES in medical care
  • [42:27] Dr. Lesley’s work in body positivity with children
  • [45:31] Dr. Lesley’s tangible tip
Mentioned in this episode:
Full Bio:

Lesley Williams-Blackwell, MD, a board certified family medicine physician and certified eating disorder specialist, is an advocate for diversity and inclusivity in healthcare. After years of working in the mental health field, she noted that many of the issues she was seeing in her adult and adolescent patients, were linked to negative messages they internalized since early childhood regarding their appearance. She discovered that it was difficult to combat these ingrained messages. She also observed her own young daughter starting to struggle with body image issues and feeling self-conscious about her size.

Dr. Williams-Blackwell then decided to switch gears and focus her energy from eating disorder and mental health treatment to prevention. She determined that the best way to address these concerns was to become an advocate for positive body image and size diversity in young children. Her hope is that this approach will ultimately improve the physical and mental well-being of children as well as adults.

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