Creating REAL Change!
It seems like just yesterday that I joined the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a fledgling non-profit organization that had been started just a few years prior.
I started like many of you as just a member, in an organization whose mission I believed was important. Over the last 10 years, I have become more deeply involved in the organization and have been pleased to see the OAC grow in membership, stature and importance. As has been outlined in the previous weeks’ blog posts, the OAC has seen important and substantial growth over the last decade.
Over the next decade, I expect to see us spend some of the “political capital” we have earned to push our mission — to elevate and empower those affected by obesity through education, advocacy and support.
The field of obesity medicine and our understanding of the disease has grown exponentially over the past decade. It seems that almost monthly there is new research being released that deepens our understanding of the biology, physiology and psychology of this disease. Today, there are so many more evidence based treatment options available for individuals with obesity that are proving to be successful.
Do you know what hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years? Most people still don’t have access to these treatments. That seems crazy to me. The No. 2 cause of death in the United States is obesity, and most Americans don’t have access to treatments that effectively treat the disease. Can you imagine the uproar if insurance companies said “we no longer cover cancer,” or “we no longer cover heart attacks?” Why is it okay if they don’t cover obesity treatments at all, or if they do cover it, that they can put strict requirements before you can get the treatment? It is wrong and needs to change.
Creating change is hard and difficult. It is particularly difficult to change people’s perceptions, especially when these perceptions are deeply ingrained. But history tells us it can be done if one is willing to stick up for what one believes in and stay vocal and persistent. Do you think it was easy to change thoughts that blacks “aren’t as good as whites?” That women are “less than men”? That mentally ill people “should just be put away”?
Changing the perception that those affected by obesity are “gluttonous,” “stupid,” “lazy,” “unmotivated” or “worthless” people is an equally challenging battle that needs to be fought. That’s what the Bias Busters program has been doing for the last few years and will continue to do in the future. Why is it okay to make fun of people who have weight issues? It isn’t, and it needs to stop. Why is it okay for insurance companies to pay for treating diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and heart disease, but won’t pay for treating obesity, the root cause of the problem? It isn’t, and it needs to stop. I believe that is worth fighting for.
I believe the OAC has done an incredible job over the last 10 years of educating the public about obesity. We have distributed over a million pieces of literature, delivered countless speeches to various organizations and visited with hundreds of legislators in an effort to accomplish our mission. While we have seen a number of successes, we believe over the next 10 years we need to become more vocal and assertive in creating the change we desire. The Executive Board of the OAC has created the Access to Care Committee that will actively and vocally work to increase access to evidence-based obesity treatments.
Committees don’t change things, however. People change things. That’s why we will be calling on each and every one of our members over the upcoming months and years to help us create real change. Will you answer the call? Do you believe you, your children, your family and your friends that struggle with obesity are worth it? I do, and I know the OAC does as well.
Here’s hoping that we all are reading a blog post 10 years from now that describes how 2015 was the turning point in the fight against obesity!