Boston à l'heure bleue

Top Ten Observations from ObesityWeek 2014

With most people back at home or off to their next meetings, observations from ObesityWeek are becoming memories and the basis for planning next year’s meeting in Los Angeles. From an informal poll of the best and brightest in obesity, here are the top ten observations from this intense experience of the week just past.

  1. Build it and they come. This second year of ObesityWeek was a rocking success with attendance approaching 5,400, more exhibitors, records set for abstract submissions, more media coverage, and more partner organizations.
  2. Combining forces works. Thought leaders tell us that they saw far more cross attendance between the ASMBS and Obesity Society programs in this second year of ObesityWeek. More of the symposia and faculty were shared between the two societies. On the theme of combinations, combination therapies are a growing theme. Two combination drugs — Contrave and Qsymia — are already here and early reports on a third unveiled at this ObesityWeek were positive.
  3. Growing obesity medicine. Dramatic growth in the discipline of obesity medicine is coming, along with growing pains. Applications for the American Board of Obesity Medicine exam are up by 40% this year. Options for medical treatment are expanding and research programs are growing.
  4. Focus on advocacy and policy. Patients and advocacy groups were more visible and more central in this year’s meeting. The Obesity Action Coalition drew more than a hundred people from Boston for patient education and the Advocacy Forum set new attendance records. The meeting’s policy track was more substantial than ever, though we heard calls for more robust policy research presentations at the meeting. Weight bias and the use of more respectful, people-first language received noteworthy attention.
  5. Obesity science growing vibrantly. Virtually every stakeholder remarked on the growing interest and quality of obesity research at ObesityWeek. One discerning observer told us that “many bright minds and diverse perspectives” are entering the field and that people studying surgical and medical interventions “have upped their game in data quality.”
  6. Personal connections bring value. In the midst of a tremendous volume of fine presentations, many people were ducking out of the meeting to build new connections and collaborations. Some of the smartest people we know report finding as much or more value from the meeting in these personal connections.
  7. Youngsters rock. ObesityWeek shined a light on early career investigators who are invigorating the field. Programming and events tailored to their needs are bringing sharp minds that will challenge stodgy old thinking about this disease.
  8. Some debates may never end. Disagreements over obesity and mortality, obesity as a disease, and other hot topics were alive and well. One well-respected clinical expert told us “we’re never going to settle some of the questions around this this debate over obesity and mortality.”
  9. Scolding comes with the territory. Some of the social media commentary that received the most attention — likes, comments, and shares — were scolds about people using escalators, eating unhealthy food, or not always using respectful language. Perhaps such activity serves a need as people increasingly recognize that scolding people with obesity is no longer tolerated.
  10. Great chowdah. The Boston location, though expensive, provided a great setting for side trips and local food. Who’s surprised that people who study obesity have an intense interest in food?

Click here for abstracts and details from the meeting and here for media reports on the meeting.

Boston à l’heure bleue/Boston in the Blue Hour, photograph © Emmanuel Huybrechts / flickr

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