Recently, several opinion pieces have discussed the importance of addressing obesity. However, they have omitted one obvious solution: access to a continuum of obesity care that includes medical treatment options.
The Washington Post published Millions are suffering from diet-related diseases. What number will make us pay attention?, which identifies the urgent threat of diet-related disease in our country. Yet the author fails to acknowledge that to make true progress in addressing obesity, we must combine prevention and dietary changes with additional treatment measures. And in The Hill’s Time to think beyond the vax? Reflections from a COVID-stricken doc, we again see the urgent threat of obesity highlighted with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the barriers in accessing vital obesity treatments are overlooked.
Both authors are correct to highlight the threat of obesity in the United States. We have seen significant increases in obesity prevalence in recent years, with 42.4% of adults 20 and older currently living with the disease. COVID-19 has further exacerbated the threat of obesity, as people with obesity experience more severe outcomes and deaths from COVID-19 – 78% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 have obesity or overweight.
However, when discussing the threat of this disease, the media must also note that there are concrete steps we can take to treat obesity. Studies show that long-term, effective obesity care that improves health often requires medical intervention beyond lifestyle and dietary changes, including behavioral therapy, medications, or bariatric surgery.
Unfortunately, significant barriers exist in accessing these treatments. Currently under Medicare, intensive behavioral therapy can only be provided by primary care physicians, and anti-obesity medications are excluded from Part D coverage. We must take action to make obesity treatments more accessible, thereby making real and sustainable progress in our fight against this disease. The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), currently re-introduced in Congress, seeks to expand Medicare coverage for these proven and effective obesity treatments.
If we hope to reduce the threat of obesity, we must commit to making sustainable changes in how we think about and treat this disease. That starts with ensuring that the public narrative around obesity includes treatments and highlights policy solutions that can make obesity care more accessible.
To contact your legislator about passing TROA, visit: https://obesitycareadvocacynetwork.com/advocacy/TROA
Or, to learn more about people-first language, click here: https://obesitycareadvocacynetwork.com/news/fact-sheet-media-guidelines-for-covering-obesity-1