VIEWPOINT: Time to end obesity stigma, expand treatment access
Obesity is a complex and treatable disease, and the time has come to acknowledge this fact and shed the cultural stigma attached to body weight. Obesity is a costly epidemic and a leading contributor to major causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Yet despite conclusive evidence that obesity is treatable, Medicare does not cover safe, FDA-approved anti-obesity medications.
Until policymakers recognize obesity as the life-threatening disease that it is and work to cover approved anti-obesity medications as an effective treatment for obesity, millions will continue to suffer needlessly.
If you are working to overcome obesity, you are not alone. Most of my life, from early childhood to adulthood, I battled obesity and struggled with the challenge of seeking medical treatment. According to the Obesity Care Action Network:
- More than 31% of Delawareans are living with obesity. This includes 37% of Black adults and 30% of white adults.
- Delaware ranks 14th in the nation for adults with Type 2 diabetes.
- Health care costs for individuals affected by obesity are 42% higher.
Obesity disproportionately impacts communities of color that already face systemic inequities in healthcare. Black Americans are 77% more likely and Latinx Americans are 66% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to their white neighbors, a disease that increases the likelihood of life threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke.
Solving systemic racial inequity in our health care system will require comprehensive action to address social determinants of health and bias, and ensure equal access and affordability. But, we can start by treating obesity like the disease the medical community knows it is.
Outdated policies barring access to affordable obesity care are further exacerbating health disparities. Seniors rely on Medicare to cover their essential health care, including the full spectrum of obesity care.
Our laws and regulations must be driven by science, including recognizing and treating obesity as a disease. Successful obesity treatment involves weight reduction and improvements in related comorbidities. Anti-obesity medications are an important component in fighting this disease and helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other complications.
We need our Congressional leaders and the administration to work together to make sure this is resolved and anti-obesity medications are covered by Medicare so millions of Americans can get access to lifesaving care.
Sherae’a Moore represents Middletown and surrounding communities in the Delaware House of Representatives.