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AMWA holds Stakeholder Summit: Cardiometabolic Health and Obesity in Women

Today, the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) convened a stakeholder summit — Cardiometabolic Disease and Obesity in Women. Nearly 100 professionals and patient advocates came together at The National Press Club in Washington, DC, with many more participants joining virtually from across the country.

It was thrilling to have 19 stellar speakers including two congresswomen, directors of  federal agencies, leaders representing women’s health organizations and obesity advocacy organizations as well as patients and practitioners. Together, through panel discussions and breakouts, we addressed the gaps in care and opportunities to advance obesity management to meet the evolving landscape in patient care.

“Reversing the epidemic of obesity in women will require a multi-stakeholder approach,” says Eliza Chin, MD, MPH, AMWA Executive Director. 

Too often considered a lifestyle issue, there is growing recognition that obesity is a chronic disease, requiring management just as chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are treated. In fact, obesity increases the risk of these and some 200 other conditions.The introduction of GLP-1 medications that target specific pathways in people with obesity promises to revolutionize treatment, provided they are prescribed with a team approach that includes behavioral therapy and focused nutrition, which remain indispensable. Many speakers recognized that education must start even prior to pregnancy, throughout childhood and at key life stages. Similarly, it’s critical to address issues such as food deserts, social determinants of health, limited access to spaces to promote movement, and various intersecting factors that are known contributors to obesity.

Another common theme is that women may face additional burdens related to obesity, for example biases or blame, stresses due to body image, and the impact of hormonal changes during key life points – puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. More research will help give us a better understanding about how to approach obesity in women, but we must ensure that these studies are inclusive and that the data is disaggregated by sex. Highlighting healthcare needs for women, especially women in communities of color, can help ensure access for obesity treatment in underserved communities and rural areas.  

Federal Agency Directors Present at AMWA Obesity Summit

Keynote Session: Cardiometabolic Health and Obesity in Women: Why Does It Matter?
Keynote Panel: Cardiometabolic Health and Obesity in Women: Why Does It Matter? Walter J. Koroshetz, MD – Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH; Monica Webb Hooper, PhD, Deputy Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, NIH; Janine Clayton, MD, FARVO – Director, Office of Research on Women’s Health, NIH; Elizabeth Garner, MD, MPH – AMWA President; Kaveeta Vasisht, MD, PharmD – Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health, FDA

There have been successful models of care which allow for comprehensive obesity care, for example, for federal employees through the Office of Personnel Management, Veterans Affairs, and the military. But it was surprising to learn that these resources have been underutilized. On the other hand, coverage by private insurance and state policies is variable, and treatment limited under Medicare (which doesn’t cover anti-obesity medications). This means that the majority of patients with obesity over the age of 65 have limited access to care. 

To this end, the obvious concern is that coverage of obesity care would cost too much. But there was universal agreement that we must think in terms of prevention. Preventing obesity and obesity-related diseases will have downstream savings and can be cost effective as seen in a recent USC Schaeffer report, as will treating obesity sooner to thwart the onset of other comorbidities.

At the heart of all of this, we must remember the patient’s perspective, particularly as relates to stigma and discrimination within the healthcare system. and the importance of delivering “respectful, dignified care.” The National Consumers League and the National Council on Aging are addressing this problem by releasing an Obesity Bill of Rights to ensure access to obesity care for all patients based on current medical guidelines. Right now, only 10% of people who have obesity are being treated by medical professionals for that issue and as few as 2% are treated with the newer anti-obesity medications.

Two other key opportunities to note:

  • The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act has been re-introduced in Congress. There are also a number of state-led initiatives supporting medication coverage as well as some employer initiatives to cover obesity care. 
  • The Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention’s EveryBODY Covered campaign aims to empower more women to have the necessary conversations with their practitioners and advocate for coverage. 

“It’s on us to work together to achieve these goals,” says Dr. Chin. “This Summit has been an energizing first step to bring so many stakeholders together around the issue of obesity in women. Together, we can assure better care to support cardiometabolic health for all women.”

“AMWA will continue to help unite these diverse voices in this effort,” says Dr. Chin. “Let’s see to it that more education, awareness, and training about obesity medicine is provided. Let’s ensure coverage for obesity care treatment. Let’s encourage a team approach to care that provides for nutrition and mental health support. Let’s get out the word about these gaps in care during Obesity Care Week and amplify resources within your own community. Meet with your legislators and encourage them to support the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act and the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act.

View the agenda.

Final Print Agenda Edited
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