Amidst Innovation in Obesity, Inequities Grow Wider

Those Who Have Nothing to LoseWe are living in an amazing time for people who live with obesity. But it is also a time when harsh inequities in health grow wider because of obesity, even though innovation could be bringing brighter prospects for everyone who is vulnerable to this chronic disease. But inequitable access to care might instead be amplifying the problem.

Obesity Driving Inequality

A new study in the International Journal of Public Health tells us that a steeper rise of obesity among persons with low levels of education partly explains rising disparities in physical health based on educational status. In other words, the gap in health for people with low educational status seems to be growing wider in part because of obesity.

This research used the Karlson-Holm-Breen method for mediation analysis. Researchers drew upon data from the German Socio-Economic Panel for 2002 through 2020. The analysis served to estimate how much of the time effect on impaired physical health might be explained by changes in obesity rates over time. They concluded:

“Overall, we found that obesity could partly, but not fully, explain the increase in impaired physical health in people with a low level of education. The question arises as to what other factors could have contributed to the widening of health inequalities.”

Inequitable Access to Care

Innovation in obesity care, at scale, has the potential to erase some of this disparity. But only if innovative medicines are available to people who need them most. Right now, because of high costs and low coverage by health plans, this is not the case. Innovative obesity care is accessible only for the few, the wealthy, and the privileged.

This will change, but the change is not coming fast enough. Pricing pressure is mounting in the marketplace and so is political pressure for pricing that takes into account the scale of medical need. On both fronts this pressure is good. Because so long as inequities in access persist, innovation in obesity care will fall far short of its potential.

Click here for the new study in IJPH and here for more on inequities in obesity care

Those Who Have Nothing to Lose, painting by Pavel Filonov / WikiArt

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May 10, 2024

One Response to “Amidst Innovation in Obesity, Inequities Grow Wider”

  1. May 11, 2024 at 9:26 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup! We have the tools and for the time being the inequity gets worse and the inequity worsens the obesity itself. – stress, sleeplessness, internalized bias, shaming, blaming ….

    It’s either the quiet before the storm or the darkness before dawn – I chose the latter.

    Ted, thanks for provoking my brain and have a good day!