Birmingham Meeting House III

Obesity Care Week: Equity for a Treatable Chronic Disease

One of the core principles Obesity Care Week is that this chronic disease is treatable. That’s becoming plain to see with emergence of advanced GLP-1 therapies. But equity in access to obesity care is practically non-existent. Prices for these medicines are high, supplies are low, and health plans make a sport of torturing people who seek care.

Equity Is an Issue for Everyone

Tracy Zvenyach is Director of Policy, Strategy, and Alliances for the Obesity Action Coalition. She points out that equity is an issue for everyone living with obesity:

“As it stands today, almost no one can access quality obesity care. So it’s an equity issue for every single person with obesity. It is unacceptable that people living with obesity have to wait to get sicker to have any chance to get any obesity care.”

We have many layers of inequity in obesity care, but at the bottom of all those layers is a fundamental issue. Even though medical science tells us obesity is a treatable chronic disease, the default of medical systems is to deny care. To push people away into do-it-yourself approaches to obesity: “Just lose the weight.”

If only it were that simple.

An Even Larger Issue in Marginalized Communities

Of course, other issues of equity intersect with obesity because obesity does much greater harm to the health and wellbeing of people in socially and economically marginalized communities. Obesity medicine physician Fatima Cody Stanford ruefully describes the problem:

“Unfortunately, equity still lags, when it comes to obesity care. It is definitely a matter of the haves versus the have nots. This is a pervasive issue, internationally and nationally as we see those with wealth and privilege get access to care, and persons disproportionately from racial ethnic minority communities lag in access to advanced therapies.”

An Issue for All of Us

We cannot continue to accept this. Obesity should receive the same attention as any other chronic disease, if for no other reason, it lies at the root of so many other diseases that are sapping our economic vitality, robbing people of prospects for healthy, productive lives, and bankrupting health systems everywhere.

Equity in obesity care is an issue for everyone.

Click here, here, and here for more on equity in obesity care.

Birmingham Meeting House III, painting by Horace Pippin / WikiArt

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March 6, 2024

One Response to “Obesity Care Week: Equity for a Treatable Chronic Disease”

  1. March 06, 2024 at 9:24 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup! Thanks for a thoughtful commentary. Now we have to get beyond stigma, bias, and the influence of money over care for individuals.