Obesity Experts Call for Fairness in Wellness

A broad group of health and obesity policy advocates joined to call for wellness programs that actually promote health, rather than discriminate against people affected by obesity, when they jointly submitted comments last week on implementation of wellness provisions in the Affordable Care Act. The group included The Obesity Society, the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the Obesity Action Coalition,  the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Mental Health America.

“Wellness programs and incentives can be very helpful for rewarding healthy behaviors,” said Ted Kyle, Advocacy Chair for The Obesity Society and Vice-Chair of the Obesity Action Coalition. “But they can also be a subterfuge for discriminating against people with obesity when they use one-size-fits-all standards. And what’s more, the research is clear that arbitrary, unattainable goals are actually counterproductive. They serve to demotivate the very people that wellness programs should help.”

Morgan Downey, a noted obesity activist and author of the Downey Obesity Report, was more blunt about the proposed regulations. “They are terrible!” he said in submitting his comments. He called for them to be scrapped until problems he enumerated could be resolved. Explaining his concerns, Downey said “The proposed regulations not only penalize employees with pre-existing conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension, they will create workplaces even more hostile to employees with excess weight or obesity. The regulations permit employers to require that all employees participate — whether they want to or not — in un-scientific, ineffective weight loss programs or lose between $1,800 to $5,200 (depending on individual or family coverage). It will mean a golden age of weight loss scams and frauds.”

Click here to read the joint comments on wellness regulations, click here to read more in the Downey Obesity Report, and click here to read more in the Conress Blog at TheHill.com.