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AMWA Hosts Congressional Briefing on Obesity

The Heart of It All – Impact of Obesity on Cardiometabolic Health

Obesity is a complex, chronic disease that is increasing in prevalence and affecting about 42.4% of U.S. adults. As a leading cause of preventable death, obesity is also a major driver of healthcare costs.

Fortunately, our understanding of obesity has increased tremendously over the past decade. We now know that obesity is a multifactorial disease where genetics, environment, and behavior influence a person’s likelihood of developing obesity. We now have effective therapies to manage obesity and its comorbid conditions, yet one of the main barriers is access to care.

Obesity is the greatest contributor to the burden of chronic diseases accounting for 47.1% of the total healthcare costs nationwide, or $1.72 trillion dollars in the US, based on the most current data available (2016). Effective treatment can improve health outcomes and yield substantial savings for the nation’s healthcare system. 

We had more than 320 legislative aides attend this virtual meeting who focus on healthcare and others interested in learning more about opportunities for intervention. Without effective management, the associated medical costs for obesity-related conditions including  heart disease, hypertension, elevated lipids, diabetes, sleep apnea, orthopedic conditions, and some cancers, will continue to rise.  

It’s time to get to the heart of it all by approaching obesity the way we treat other chronic diseases.    

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Program Highlights.

  • Obesity is a complex disease that can and should be treated as a chronic disease.
  • The cause of obesity goes well beyond calories or willpower, encompassing
    genetics, environment, physiology, hormones, and mental status.
  • Obesity is an epidemic with varying rates of prevalence impacted by racial, ethnic, geographic, economic, and social factors.
  • Bias exists for anyone who has obesity, resulting in stigma for and about the individual; unconscious bias extends even to healthcare professionals.
  • Obesity increases the risk for numerous diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver diseases, as well as sleep disturbances, joint pain, mental health issues, and some cancers; weight loss improves health and reduces chronic disease risks.
  • Many commonly prescribed medications, particularly those used to treat mood disorders, may cause weight gain, exacerbating the issue.
  • The use of body mass index (BMI), while imperfect, remains a low-tech tool to use around the world. It does correlate with health status and mortality but does not account for racial or ethnic differences, so BMI should not be used as the sole measure to set a goal or a “get to” tool.
  • Cost, access and insurance coverage of many medications used to treat obesity remains a challenging issue. For example, anti-obesity medications are not covered under Medicare.
  • Alecia Smith, a practicing nurse, shared her personal journey of struggling with obesity despite years of daily exercise and healthy eating. She finally lost more than 100 pounds after starting medication through a discount program but now cannot afford the out-of-pocket cost to continue treatment. She worries about the likelihood of regaining weight. Access to treatment would help her maintain better health.

We aim to come together to make a difference with this call-to-action:

  • Acknowledge and treat obesity as a chronic disease
  • Advocate for access to the range of obesity management approaches
  • Invite our congressional representatives to co-sponsor and pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (H.R. 4818, S. 2407).

For additional background, please read AMWA’s Roundtable Report “Women and the Obesity Epidemic Overview and Opportunities for Action” that was cited during the webinar. AMWA leaders would love the opportunity to meet with you to discuss obesity and other women’s health priorities. We invite you to schedule a meeting with us, HERE.

AMWA is committed to developing a year-long initiative on obesity management in 2024, beginning with an Obesity Summit in late February. To participate please become a member (use first-timer discount code: time). JOIN. Be sure to check, “Obesity” to receive email updates.

We would like to acknowledge our program sponsors: The Obesity Society, Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity Medical Association, Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention, HealthyWomen, National Association of Nurse Practitioners for Women’s Health, and Society for Women’s Health Research for their participation as well as support from Novo Nordisk.

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