Your Voice Makes a Difference – A Guide on How You Can Help Fellow Individuals Affected by Obesity
Obesity impacts one in three Americans. It is estimated that more than 93 million Americans are affected by obesity, with that number predicted to rise to 120 million in the next five years. Within this population, it is estimated that 8-10 million Americans are affected by severe obesity – a disease characterized by an individual being 100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight.
As any individual affected by obesity knows, obesity is a complex chronic disease. It is not simply a condition caused by overeating. Individuals affected often experience a wide variety of other obesity-related conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and cancer, which are serious medical risks. Adding to the challenge, individuals affected are often denied access to needed medical treatment (medical weight management and/or bariatric surgery) as some payors (insurance companies, etc.) and employers do not recognize obesity as a disease.
The OAC encourages individuals affected by obesity to educate themselves about obesity, its complications and treatments. We believe that educated individuals are best able to make decisions about their healthcare, and therefore are able to be healthier and happier.
We also encourage patients to support one another. There is no one better to share the social, emotional, physical and medical impact of obesity than someone who has been personally affected.
And finally, in addition to educating themselves and supporting others, the OAC encourages individuals to become advocates for change. You can impact how others view obesity and influence decision makers. Help us to eliminate the weight bias associated with this disease and make sure that obesity is treated as a disease, allowing for increased access to safe and effective medical treatment.
Here is a list of ways you can educate, support and advocate for individuals affected by obesity:
Elected United States officials at the local, state and federal level play a significant role in our society and healthcare. Often, the laws they create directly influence our day-to-day lives or regulate the medical treatments we receive. However, the majority of legislators know little about obesity, its effects and treatments.
As an American, it is your right to build a relationship with your elected officials and to advocate for positive change. It is through the voice of individuals affected by obesity, family members and medical professionals that legislators learn how current, pending and future laws impact Americans. The OAC encourages you to reach out to your legislators.
There are a variety of ways you can reach out to your legislators including mail, e-mail, phone, attending town hall meetings or in-person. No matter how you choose to communicate, be as clear and concise as possible. Share your personal story with your elected official and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Keep in mind that you elect your lawmakers. They serve you and need to know issues important to you.
- Locate your representatives
- Tips on writing your representatives
- Learn more about your state’s obesity program
- Read how laws are made
In addition to elected officials, those who work for the government agencies that regulate healthcare play a major role. Such agencies include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute for Health and Centers for Disease Control, among many others. Often times, regulatory agencies welcome participation through public comment periods on proposed policies. Public comments are a great opportunity to share your view on a proposed regulation.
- Tips on writing regulatory officials
- Locate your state’s Department of Insurance
- Locate your state’s regulatory agency
- Find your state’s Medicaid Program
Educate the Media
In the U.S., the media is tremendously influential. Encourage your local media to produce accurate stories on obesity. Do not hesitate to contact local newspaper reporters and/or television health reporters and share your story. Try to build a good relationship with the local media by providing accurate information and timely responses. If you see a story, television show or article and believe it was inaccurate, one-sided and/or added to the negative stigma of obesity, write or call the media outlet and share your concerns.
The general public is bombarded on a daily basis by images and stories from the media. Many of them are one-sided or inaccurate. Reach out to your local media and encourage them to portray obesity accurately. Subscribe to the Obesity Action Alert to stay up-to-date on the latest major media stories on obesity.
Educate Insurers and Employers
Does your health insurance company offer coverage for obesity treatment? If you have been seeking treatment, you may already know. If you do not know, find out by calling the member services number on your insurance card. If coverage is not offered or you believe the procedures to access care are too complicated, do not hesitate to write the medical director of the insurance company and ask for an explanation.
Often, your human resources department or benefits manager at work plays a major role in deciding which health conditions are covered by your health insurance (and which insurance policies are offered). Share the seriousness of obesity and the importance of obesity coverage with them and encourage them to seek out policies that offer obesity coverage as a benefit.
To provide your employer and insurance company with statistics demonstrating the effectiveness of obesity treatments, and to learn how to work with your insurance provider, please click here.
Educate the General Public
We have already discussed the influence the media has on the general public, but you can have an influence as well. It is important that the public receives accurate information on the risks and treatments of obesity, as well as the numerous related conditions (diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, etc.). You can be the source of such information by volunteering to speak on obesity at your place of worship, service club (Rotary Club, etc.) and/or your place of employment. Share your personal story; it will be tremendously influential.
Be Your Own Advocate
Learn as much as you can about obesity, its risks and treatments to best take care of yourself. Not only will you likely improve your own quality of life and quality of health, you will be an inspiration to others.
Join and Encourage Others to Join the OAC
Join and encourage others to join in our efforts to educate, advocate and support those affected by obesity.
For more information on membership, please click here.
The OAC is an IRS registered 501(c)3 National non-profit organization dedicated to giving a voice to those affected by obesity. The OAC was formed to build a nationwide coalition of those affected to become active advocates and spread the important message of the need for obesity education. To increase obesity education, the OAC offers a wide variety of free educational resources on obesity, severe obesity and childhood obesity, in addition to consequences and treatments of these conditions. The OAC also conducts advocacy efforts throughout the U.S. on both the National and state levels, and encourages individuals to become proactive advocates.
To achieve our mission, the OAC will:
- Increase public education on obesity
- Advocate for access to safe treatment
- Strive to eliminate the negative stigma associated with obesity
- Promote research in new and effective treatments
- Empower individuals affected by obesity to take action