OCW2022: Seeking More Progress to Overcome Obesity

Nine years ago, the American Medical Association came to understand that obesity is a complex, chronic disease. Not a behavioral problem. Not amenable to simple DIY solutions. Now, this week marks the eighth year that health advocates band together to call for better caring, less bias, and more science to reduce the harm of obesity. Yes, today is the start of OCW2022 (Obesity Care Week) and ConscienHealth is proud to be a Founding Champion.

Visible Progress

The truth is that a lot has changed since 2013.

For one thing, dealing with obesity as a medical problem has become much more common. Before 2013, that would have been exceedingly rare. But since 2013, the specialty of obesity medicine has flourished and become the fastest growing medical specialty in America. More than 5,000 physicians are now board certified in obesity medicine, and each year the specialty is growing by roughly a thousand more. It adds up to better odds of getting medical care for this condition – instead of getting blame and shame for it.

Recognition for the medical value of bariatric surgery has grown, too. In 2013, surgery for an adolescent with severe obesity was something far outside the mainstream of medical care. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it. What’s more, the value of surgery for putting type 2 diabetes into remission has evolved from being a marginal idea to becoming an accepted fact. According to the American Diabetes Association, it is part of the standard of care.

Finally, the progress and investment in R&D for better obesity care is breathtaking. In 2013, virtually all the effort to address obesity was going into ineffective options aimed at a single goal – nudging people to eat less and move more. Pharmaceutical research had largely abandoned obesity as a therapeutic target. Now, game-changing therapeutics are coming through development and into use.

Growing Regard for Lived Experiences

There is an undeniable, growing regard for the lived experience with obesity. A decade ago, people living with obesity were dismissed, stigmatized, and marginalized. This tendency was so strong that a brilliant candidate for Surgeon General was openly discounted because of her visible adiposity. Such blatant bias is no longer acceptable today, although implicit bias is certainly quite common still.

Miles to Go

At the opening of OCW2022, an important fact remains and inspires us to press forward. Despite all the progress of the last decade toward better care for obesity, we still have miles to go. OAC President and CEO Joe Nadglowski sums it up:

“This is particularly evident in coverage by health plans for obesity care. Though coverage for obesity care has slowly improved over the last decade, barriers based on the behavior-change narrative persist all too often. These include requirements for dieting, documenting specific behavior change efforts, and similar arbitrary hurdles. They serve to limit access to evidence-based obesity care by making patients have to ‘earn the right’ to obesity treatment beyond behavioral change strategies.

“For what other disease do health systems routinely deny effective care?”

Indeed we have miles to go for improving the quality of obesity care, making it more available, and effectively preventing obesity. But the support of more than 100 champions for OCW2022 gives us confidence that we can do this.

Obesity Care Week graphics and resources available at obesitycareweek.org

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


February 27, 2022

One Response to “OCW2022: Seeking More Progress to Overcome Obesity”

  1. February 27, 2022 at 7:48 pm, Amy Lee MD said:

    Thank you for this article. I have been practicing as a medical Bariatrician since 2008. I have just published my book called ACCESS: Addressing the Obesity Crisis (isbn 9781638671626) which states the very fact. The issues are beyond the patients or the misconception of their lack of control. It’s the system of 1. Obesity is deemed as a chronic condition in 2013. I would say we are about 50 years to too late. 2. Little incentive to practice when reimbursement for nutrition counseling is so low. 3. Newer efficacious medications are financially inaccessible leaving us the old school stimulants which are only for short term use and most physicians are reluctant to prescribe due to their ignorance 4. Getting credentialed under ABOM is not a formal certification compared to cardiology or gastrointestinal specialties. There is still a disparity and lack of respect in the field. 5. No health plan has a weight management service offering in place and patients end up just doing their own research online which also cause much confusion and frustration.