Zündapp Janus

Obesity Care Week 2023: Looking Forward and Back

More than a decade of life as a champion for obesity care has been an enlightening road to travel. Obesity Care Week 2023 is a great occasion for looking forward because there can be no doubt. As Axios recently explained, the healthcare system is in the midst of a great re-think of obesity:

“Doctors and medical experts are leading a rapid cultural shift around obesity, viewing it as a disease rather than a lifestyle choice.

“Why it matters: That shift is opening new treatments and better care – but also new controversies over who can access those treatments and how best to use them.”

This is an exhilarating time for obesity care, and it’s messy, too. That’s because shaking off old misperceptions and false dichotomies attached to obesity is difficult and unsettling.

But make no mistake about it, those flawed ideas are headed to the dustbin.

Seductive and False Dichotomies

Looking back, it’s easy to see the false constructs that hampered progress for so long. There was the idea that preventing obesity must come first because it would be too hard to offer people care – and it would be futile besides. So healthcare systems offered more bias and stigma than actual care for obesity.

Another false dichotomy was the idea that we have to choose between offering care for obesity or for eating disorders. In truth, access to care for both of these very real health problems has for too long been shockingly poor.

Other false dichotomies are easy to find. Will we focus on weight or health? Is it more important to treat diabetes or obesity? Should people get behavioral support or medical care? With more and better options for care, thoughtful people are realizing that “both” is the right answer to these silly questions.

Lifting Up Voices for Patient-Centered Care

But we have more work to do. Change is unsettling and health systems are comfortable with empty talk about prevention, letting obesity progress, and then making money from the complications of obesity.

Looking forward, better care for obesity will require a pivot to earlier and more effective care. More and better tools are becoming available. What’s lacking is equitable access to care. That will come only when people expect it as part of a decent standard for patient-centered care.

For that, we need to lift up the voices of people living with obesity, expecting good, evidence-based care. We should settle for nothing less.

Click here for more about Obesity Care Week and here for the concise summary by Axios on the big re-think of obesity.

Zündapp Janus, photograph by nakhon100, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Find more about this unusual forward and backward looking car here.

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February 27, 2023