People Left in a State of Poor Health

The Confused and Incomplete State of Obesity Policies

Fall has arrived and that means we have a new State of Obesity Report from the Trust for America’s Health. The report offers a good inventory of the available data to describe the extent of the challenge we face from obesity. And perhaps more than anything, we agree with this assessment up front in the report:

Despite this continuing rise in obesity and its consequences, the United States has failed to create a coordinated and comprehensive response to the obesity epidemic.

This report offers some good recommendations. Reduce health disparities. Increase food security. Improve the built environment for physical activity. Reform the marketing and pricing of food. But it offers no help with obesity for the four out of ten Americans who are living with this condition right now.

Disparities and Racism

Without a doubt, health disparities and systemic racism make the problem of obesity worse. But it is not just a problem of disadvantaged groups. Unless you consider the indisputable fact that people with obesity across the board face bias and discrimination.

Yes, it is certainly true that obesity prevalence has grown faster in Black and Latino populations. People with lower incomes and less education suffer higher rates of obesity. But as Roland Sturm and Ruopeng An pointed out some time ago, obesity has risen across the board. For rich and poor, Black and White.

Addressing racism and health disparities is critically important. But it won’t be good enough to ensure that Black people with obesity receive the same inadequate care that White people with obesity receive. No, we must eliminate all health disparities, including the glaring disparity in care for people with obesity.

Paying for the complications of untreated obesity while denying access to real obesity care is a cruel and expensive joke. It’s worse when you realize we know how to prevent those complications, even in Black and underserved populations. All it takes is good obesity care, informed by objective evidence.

Real Solutions

The State of Obesity Report provides a great deal of useful information. It offers some good policy ideas.

But it’s incomplete because it neglects to take on the challenge of providing better care for 42 percent of Americans who are living with the chronic disease of obesity. Right now, whether you’re Black or White, rich or poor, odds are that the only care you’ll get is glib advice to lose weight. We can do better.

Click here for the new State of Obesity Report from the Trust for America’s Health.

People Left in a State of Poor Health, photograph © David Geitgey Sierralupe / flickr

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September 24, 2020

2 Responses to “The Confused and Incomplete State of Obesity Policies”

  1. September 24, 2020 at 7:45 am, Al Lewis said:

    And, to make it worse, large corporations have crash-dieting contests and other financial programs to penalize or stigmatize obesity. Schlumberger is my favorite.

  2. September 24, 2020 at 10:09 am, Allen Browne said:

    When a person has a disease, they need treatment – not prevention, not just treatment of complications of the disease. They need treatment of the disease itself. 42% of the adult population and 20% of the pediatric population cannot be simply ignored.