By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
In response to a relentless surge in obesity rates nationwide, a powerful alliance of leading consumer advocates, aging experts, and public health groups have introduced the groundbreaking Obesity Bill of Rights for Americans. The initiative, with the National Consumers League (NCL) and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) at its forefront, aims to transform obesity care by enacting significant changes in federal, state, and employer policies.
The Obesity Bill of Rights is the culmination of a yearlong, meticulous fact-finding effort involving experts and communities, marking a crucial turning point in the battle against the United States’ most pervasive and expensive chronic disease. Shockingly, even a decade after the American Medical Association (AMA) classified obesity as a severe disease requiring comprehensive care, it continues to be largely overlooked and untreated.
“Our aim with the Obesity Bill of Rights is to designate quality obesity care as the inherent right of all adults, empowering those with the disease to demand unbiased treatment, regardless of their size or weight,” Sally Greenberg, CEO of the National Consumers League, said in a news release.
Developed in collaboration with leading obesity specialists and backed by nearly 40 national obesity and chronic disease organizations, the Obesity Bill of Rights establishes eight fundamental rights. These rights are designed to ensure that individuals with obesity undergo screening, diagnosis, counseling, and treatment according to medical guidelines, eradicating pervasive weight bias and ageism within the healthcare system.
The staggering statistics surrounding obesity underscore the critical need for this initiative. Presently, only 30 million out of an estimated 108 million adults living with obesity have been diagnosed, and a mere 2% of those eligible for anti-obesity medications have received these treatments. Officials noted in a news release that the consequences of untreated obesity include worsening outcomes for over 230 obesity-related chronic diseases, approximately 400,000 premature deaths annually, and an estimated $1.72 trillion in direct and indirect costs to the U.S. economy.
“These rights collectively ensure that adults with obesity have reliable, accurate information about their disease, respectful and nondiscriminatory care from medical professionals, and insurance that provides access to all treatments deemed appropriate by their health providers,” stated Ramsey Alwin, NCOA President and CEO.
NCL and NCOA have started the Right2ObesityCare grassroots movement to drive the radical change that the Obesity Bill of Rights envisions. Officials said the movement aims to engage individuals with obesity, caregivers, health professionals, community leaders, employers, and a network of obesity and chronic disease organizations to foster the adoption of the Obesity Bill of Rights in clinical settings.
The online hub, http://www.right2obesitycare.org, will serve as the epicenter for mobilizing stakeholders, focusing on national and state policy efforts. Right2ObesityCare will develop national “obesity goals” for fully implementing the Obesity Bill of Rights by December 31, 2029. Plans include regional town halls, workshops, advocacy forums, and meetings with federal and state legislators and regulators.
Additionally, the American Psychological Association (APA) said the health crisis in Black communities are intricately linked to a myriad of societal elements, including but not limited to disparities in stable and affordable housing, income inequality, and limited access to quality education. Each of these factors, individually or collectively, can significantly influence an individual’s chances of leading a longer and healthier life. A complete picture of the obesity epidemic emerges when access to affordable, wholesome food and secure spaces for physical activity is unequal, APA officials noted. Statistics show nearly 48 percent of African American adults are clinically obese, with a detailed breakdown exposing 37.1 percent of affected men and 56.6 percent of women, in contrast to 32.6 percent of whites.
Meanwhile, the Obesity Bill of Rights has garnered initial endorsements from 36 prominent organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Nurses Association, and the Obesity Action Coalition. The coalition’s efforts have also received support from influential policymakers such as Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), who are championing the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) to expand access to obesity treatments.
“Obesity is a chronic condition – not a personal or moral failing,” Moore asserted. “We need to ensure our health care system treats it as a disease, so that Americans with obesity can access holistic, high-quality care that meets the full spectrum of their needs. I am proud to be a co-lead of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, which puts us on a path toward effectively treating obesity, helping create healthier outcomes for Americans and supporting enhanced quality of life for Medicare beneficiaries who need comprehensive care.”