Dr Fatima Cody Stanford Outlines the Lack of Policies for Obesity Treatment

The general public and policy makers still still view obesity as a personal failing, which explains why there has been a lack of progress to develop policies for obesity treatment, said Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FTOS, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Published Online: December 16, 2016


The general public and policy makers still still view obesity as a personal failing, which explains why there has been a lack of progress to develop policies for obesity treatment, said Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FTOS, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Transcript (slightly modified)
What is being done to remove barriers to obesity treaetments by policy makers and providers?
When you look at Congress this year, they came up with the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, which was supposed to kind of open up the spectrum of looking at obesity care and coverage across the population. It has not passed. It does have bipartisan support, which is not normal in the current Congress.

I think that one of the things that we can talk about when we're looking at issues like obesity: it is bipartisan. It doesn't affect Democrats or Republicans differently. You can't say that because you have X socioeconomic status that you are going to have less of an issue of dealing with it. So I think that one thing that's maybe good—if you want to use 'good' as the word or adjective to describe about obesity—is that it affects everyone.

Everyone has struggled in some way, but often people still people recognize it as a personal responsibility, something that someone is not doing well enough for themselves. And until we recognize that it's so much more complex than that—the brain controls how the body sees weight, and the treament modalities that are out there that have been shown to be more effective are those that target how the brain sees weight. If we can get the general population and/or policy makers to recognize that, then we can develop actual obesity policy in the United States to target this disease process.

When we look at obesity compared with diabetes or other chronic disease processes in the United States, obesity is really the only one that has no policies on the books. To date there are no policies despite the fact that our obesity rates and percentages are much higher than that of any other developed country. So it's really kind of sad where we claim that we're the best and the brightest, yet, we have yet to come up with a comprehensive obesity policy in our country. We have different targets and different goals that are put forth by HHS, the guidelines on physical activity that came out in 2008. There are different, kind of roundabout ways of trying to address obesity, but they are somewhat archaic and don't really capture the disease processes.

I think the idea of getting policy makers to understand obesity will help shift—first of all developing an actual policy and shift how we think about obesity targets and treatment throughout the entire population.

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