Welcome to Weighing In, the STOP Obesity Alliance blog – a new addition to our redesigned Web site.

This blog is a forum developed to facilitate discussion on key topics related to obesity and obesity-related diseases. And there are many topics to discuss!

Obesity continues to plague our nation and increasingly is the gateway to chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Patients, health care providers, employers, labor, government and insurance providers will all continue to be affected by the tremendous burden of this epidemic. As the STOP Obesity Alliance and its Steering Committee members continue our collaboration on efforts to take on this health crisis, we will take advantage of this forum to have an open dialogue with all of you.

Key contributors to Weighing In are STOP Obesity Alliance Steering Committee members, Christine Ferguson, the STOP Obesity Alliance Director and Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the Health and Wellness Chairperson of the Alliance.

Obesity GPS: A Guide for Policy and Program Solutions

The STOP Obesity Alliance Health & Wellness Chairperson, 17th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona, facilitated a panel discussion for the launch of the Obesity GPS - featuring the Alliance's Director, Christine Ferguson, the American Medical Group Association's Julie Sanderson-Austin, and the American Heart Association's Dr. John Ring.

Blog: Weighing In
Are Women Carrying the Weight of the World?

By Christine C. Ferguson, J.D., Director, STOP Obesity Alliance

“It’s your time” is the theme of this year’s National Women’s Health Week, sponsored by the Office of Women Health for the Department of Health and Human Services.  With all the roles women play in today’s society, it’s no wonder that we might neglect to take a moment to think about our own health – and where it is headed.  We are mothers, wives, daughters, teachers, executives and, increasingly, “Chief Health Officers” for our families.  And, according to recent statistics, one in three of us is also something else: obese.  

Unfortunately, that means that millions of women are at an increased risk for a myriad of obesity-related chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.  And on top of all that, being obese exacerbates other issues for women, from workplace discrimination to bias in the doctor’s office.     

Although obesity affects people of all genders, ages, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, the statistics alone beg the question: Is the burden of obesity overwhelmingly falling on the shoulders of women?

The facts seem to support the notion that it does.  Women are more likely to be obese than men. In 2007-08, nearly 50% of non-Hispanic black women, 43% of Hispanic women and 33% of non-Hispanic white women over the age of 20 were obese.[1]  We know that weight bias against obese women is higher than against obese men in a variety of areas.  Even in health care settings, women face widespread weight-based stigmatization, which often leads them to delay or avoid seeking necessary preventive care.[2]  In addition, a woman’s weight has been shown to affect the health of her family members—especially her children.  Maternal obesity increases the risk of obesity among children.  Research also shows that mothers heavily influence their children’s eating habits, physical activity levels, future risks of obesity, and overall health status.[3,4]  Mothers commonly serve as gatekeepers for the food that enters the household.[5] 

As the U.S. Department of Labor states, “Working women are likely to be the primary decision maker for the family as well as the caregiver when a family member falls ill.  Therefore, women need adequate knowledge and tools to satisfy their multiple roles as decision makers and consumers of health care.”

The STOP Obesity Alliance housed at the George Washington University’s Department of Health Policy has taken a step in that direction with the development of a Task Force on Women.  The Task Force, made up of a number of high-level public and private-sector organizations, will work to elevate obesity and chronic disease issues among women on the national policy agenda.

The National Women’s Health Week observance in 2010 provides us with the opportunity to work together to balance the scales for women dealing with overweight, obesity and chronic disease for themselves or for their families. 

[1] Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D., Ogden, C.L., & Curtin, L.R. (2010). Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008. Journal of the American Medicine Association, 303(3), 235-241.

[2] Puhl, R.M., & Heuer, C.A. (2009). The stigma of obesity: A review and update. Obesity, 17(5), 941-964.

[3] Lindsay, A.C., Sussner, K.M., Kim, J., & Gortmaker, S. (2006). The role of parents in preventing childhood obesity. The Future of Children, 16(1), 169-186.

[4] Whitaker, R.C., Wright, J.A., Pepe, M.S., Seidel, K.D., & Dietz, W.H. (1997). Predicting obesity in young adulthood from childhood and parental obesity. New England Journal of Medicine, 337(13), 869-873.

[5] Campbell, K.J., Crawford, D.A., Carver, A., Garnett, S.P., & Baur, L.A. (2007). Associations between the home food environment and obesity-promoting eating behaviors in adolescence. Obesity, 15(3), 719-730.

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