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Health care advocates develop first-ever 'Obesity Bill of Rights'

Advocates say those with obesity face stigmas and discrimination when trying to obtain health care, making it challenging to seek treatment.
Health care advocates develop first-ever 'Obesity Bill of Rights'
Posted at 8:47 AM, Feb 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-01 18:27:08-05

Health care advocates introduced what they call the first-ever Obesity Bill of Rights with the hopes of changing workplace policies and state and federal laws. 

The Obesity Bill of Rights, which was published Wednesday by the National Consumers League and National Council on Aging, has the backing of 40 national obesity and chronic disease organizations and several lawmakers. 

“We know many people with obesity feel stuck because they don't get the care they need,” said Dorothea Vafiadis, the senior director for the Center for Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging.

“We want this Obesity Bill of Rights to show how important it is to treat people with obesity with dignity and respect so they can have the quality of life and age well,” she told Scripps News.

There are eight tenets of the bill: The right to accurate, clear, trusted, and accessible information; the right to respect; the right to make treatment decisions; the right to treatment from qualified health providers; the right to person-centered care; the right to accessible obesity treatment from health systems; the right for older adults to receive quality obesity care; and the right to coverage for treatment. 

Advocates for the bill of rights say those with obesity face stigmas and numerous obstacles in accessing care. 

"Our goal with the Obesity Bill of Rights is to define quality obesity care as the right of all adults and empower those with the disease to ask questions and demand treatment without discrimination or bias regardless of their size or weight," said Sally Greenberg, CEO of the National Consumers League. "For too long, adults with obesity have encountered a health care system that is working against them. They have been stigmatized, discriminated against, not treated with respect by their health providers, and have faced significant hurdles and burdensome requirements to receive obesity care."  

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Developers of the Obesity Bill of Rights say they held town halls across the U.S. and learned that those in attendance "described a health care system that is inhospitable to delivering quality obesity care, and physicians described having limited time for counseling, not enough training in obesity management, and inadequate coverage and reimbursement for obesity care."

The groups have launched the Right2ObesityCare movement, which they hope to have fully implemented across the U.S. by 2029. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 41.7% of American adults were considered obese in 2020, which was up from 30.5% in 1999. During that time, severe obesity nearly doubled from 4.7% of adults to 9.2%. 

As of 2019, the medical costs associated with obesity in the U.S. reached $173 billion. The CDC estimates that those with obesity spent $1,861 more in health care than those at a healthy weight.

“We hope the Obesity Bill of Rights will change the national dialogue about these issues toward empathy and understanding that this is a chronic condition,” Vafiadis said. 

@scrippsnews Americans with #obesity spend $1,861 more in health care than those at a healthy weight, according to CDC estimates. The Obesity Bill of Rights was introduced to help empower people dealing with obesity. #healthtok ♬ original sound - Scripps News


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