Dear Oprah, Please Don’t Forget It’s A Chronic Disease

October 26, 2015

A week ago we learned that one of the world’s best-known media tycoons invested in a major stake of one of America’s best-known commercial weight loss programs. Oprah, meet Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers, meet Oprah.

The fervor and excitement that has ensued over the news is only natural. When two lifestyle mega-brands unite, it’s like the world breaks out into song. But as we look past the buzz, we have to ask who really wins here? As longtime non-surgical medical weight loss experts, we’re not totally confident that it’s everyday people struggling to achieve good health through weight loss.

We’re not knocking folks for choosing Weight Watchers or any other commercial weight loss program. After all, these plans do have their merits and have been the prevailing option for many years now.

But for 36% of American adults, obesity is a very real, very destructive condition that can have severe consequences on overall health. Here are just some of the stark facts:

-Obesity is linked to over 59 medical conditions, including some types of cancer.

-Obesity is the number one or two risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

-Obesity is associated with substantial increase in older adults hospitalization, ER visits, and use of outpatient medical services.

If the above facts were listed in a job description as responsibilities to manage, a reasonable person would come to the conclusion that the best person for the position is someone who is a trained medical professional. In fact, a couple of years ago the most influential medical organization agreed. In 2013, the American Medical Association proclaimed that obesity in and of itself is a chronic disease, and chronic disease is the purview of the medical community.

The business environment in addressing our obesity health crisis has shifted steadily in the last decade towards putting obesity management in the hands of medical professionals. In addition to the AMA’s decision, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended that all adults get screened annually for obesity, and if diagnosed with obesity, undergo intensive behavioral intervention for the disease. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) also introduced coverage for intensive behavioral intervention for obesity in 2012, and now the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers free preventive care for obesity.

Ms. Winfrey, as someone who has been so courageous in your own long-time public battle with weight, and who has assumed a very influential position in an attempt to reverse the obesity crisis in this country, we encourage you to please keep these facts at the forefront of your mind. Your fans will thank you for it!

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