Queen Latifah Wants to Help Eliminate Weight Stigma in Healthcare: 'This Hits Home for Me' (Exclusive)

The actress and rapper is partnering with It’s Bigger Than Me! to help people in the obesity community receive inclusive, compassionate care

Queen Latifah is advocating for change.

The actress and rapper, 53, is partnering with It’s Bigger Than Me! to help people in the obesity community receive inclusive medical care.

“66% of people with obesity have felt weight stigma from doctors,” Latifah tells PEOPLE. “We want to make sure people receive care that's compassionate, safe and respectful.”

Obesity continues to be widespread in the United States. “Four out of 10 Americans are obese, and 4 out of 5 Black women,” says Latifah. “So this hits home for me.”

Using a new symbol, care providers will be able to signal that their offices are safe spaces, free from judgment or bias. “This new symbol is one of hope, a symbol that says we're allies, a symbol that says, you will receive good healthcare here,” the Girls Trip star explains.

“I saw my cousin have to deal with this issue — she was morbidly obese and she went in and out of the hospital," Latifah says. "There were so many things she had to face. And for a doctor to just say, ‘Oh, you need to lose some weight.’ Well, it's not that easy. Everyone's bodies are not the same. We all deserve specific individual care.”

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<p> It's Bigger Than Me</p> Queen Latifah

It's Bigger Than Me

Queen Latifah

Related: Queen Latifah 'Practices' Saying No to Jobs Asking Her to Lose Weight in an 'Unhealthy Way'

Another component of the campaign is educating doctors about good practices involving patients with obesity.

“It's called inclusive obesity care because it ensures everyone feels welcome and respected when they come into your office," she adds. "Imagine how good it must feel when a patient walks through that door and sees the appropriate chairs or office set-up, that someone has considered them, has taken the time to think about what their needs are. There’s a sense of, 'I'm respected here. I'm welcome here.'”

Feeling seen and understood will also encourage people with obesity to have more honest conversations with their doctors.

“If you’re discouraged to get into your doctor’s office, then that's not a good thing,” Latifah says. “I find that when I'm able to have an honest conversation with my doctor, when a person is really able to develop that relationship, there's a lot that your doctor can help you discover about yourself.”

Related: Queen Latifah Recalls Being Told She's in the 'Category of Obesity': 'It Pissed Me Off'

Latifah went on to say how positive health awareness helped her when she was growing up.

“I went through some of these things as a kid — in the class pictures, I was this big kid for my age, but sensitive on the inside,” she recalls. “So people would say things to me and I got my feelings hurt. Luckily I had parents who would love me and put me back together. But it was tough at times. “

"And if you're not even aware of those things, if your parents aren't having those conversations with you, your doctor is not talking to you about it, that feels very frightening," Latifah tells PEOPLE. "And that can close you off to your dreams, your hopes, your talents."

"Who knows how much of the world hasn't been changed because someone said the wrong thing to a person, like 'Hey, you're too fat to do that', which made them not want to do that," she says. "And that's our loss. That's the world's loss.” 

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