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.
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.
By Morgan Downey, JD, Policy Advisor, STOP Obesity Alliance
A couple of weeks ago the New Jersey Department of Health decided to stop reimbursement of drugs for obesity and impotency from a program for the elderly to supplement the Medicare drug coverage program (known as Medicare Part D, it excludes drugs for obesity).
An article on NJ.com quotes the Department of Health spokesperson stating that “cosmetic drugs” that treat obesity, hair loss or minor skin conditions, as well as vitamins and cold medicines, will no longer be covered — saving the cash-strapped state $3.3 million. Amazingly, the state AARP chair said it shouldn’t result in significant hardships for vulnerable adults. Doug Johnson said the state “could have easily slashed vital health care programs and services that vulnerable adults depend on, but they did not.” (Some advocate for the elderly, eh?)
Weight loss in the elderly is important and achievable. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that older participants actually had greater weight loss and higher levels of physical activity than younger participants. It may be that younger older persons from 65 to 74 years of age have reduced stress from their careers, grown children, and friends and family struggling with health problems. These may all motivate them to improve their health and it clearly benefits the Medicare program if diabetes or cardiovascular diseases related to obesity can be postponed.
We thought the old canard that obesity is a trivial, cosmetic problem was put to rest years ago. As Congress and the Administration, employers and insurers are grappling with approaches to the prevention and treatment of obesity, we see two leading healthcare institutions throwing up the ‘cosmetic’ arguments of this epidemic. This comes on the heels of the recent declaration by the American Medical Association that persons with morbid obesity who cannot work should not be eligible for disability payments. We might expect such attitudes from people or institutions who did not know better but these are respected health organizations who are taking us backward not forward.
If supposedly science-based organizations dedicated to improving individual and public health take these attitudes, how can we expect the public to take the obesity problem seriously?