The Power of the OAC Voice – Because of You

The mission of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is to elevate and empower individuals through education, advocacy and support.

The OAC was founded in 2005 as a patient advocacy organization to fill the void of an organization representing individuals with obesity on the local, state and federal level. But what does this even mean? So often we use the word “advocacy,” and talk about activating our membership, but what exactly is advocacy, and how did the OAC’s inception fill that void in 2005?

Advocacy is the core of the OAC. It’s why we were formed. When a legislator stood up at a meeting on obesity and asked the question, “Who represents those who are affected by obesity? I hear every day from public health officials, healthcare providers and others about obesity, but I’ve never heard from someone who is personally affected asking me for their help,” the Obesity Action Coalition was created. This statement inspired our commitment to advocacy on behalf of those affected by obesity.

Now, nearly 10 years later, the OAC has seen tremendous strides in the field of obesity – from access to care, awareness of the disease, the gamut of treatment options, the fight against weight bias, and so much more. The OAC’s efforts extend beyond the traditional “advocacy” picture. While we do spend a great deal of our time on Capitol Hill and working with local, state and federal legislators on policy, we also dedicate our time to fighting weight discrimination, taking part in FDA meetings to support new obesity treatments, and maintaining a presence in the community providing resources for those struggling with their weight.

The OAC is the voice for those affected by obesity. We represent not only our membership, but the 93 million Americans who are afflicted with this disease. The OAC membership, with nearly 50,000 individuals nationwide, is the power of the OAC voice. As our membership continues to grow, our voice becomes stronger and stronger. One of the greatest aspects of the OAC’s advocacy initiatives is when we bring our members with us to share their personal stories with obesity. Nothing is more POWERFUL than hearing directly from the people affected. And before the OAC was founded, there was no group who told the personal stories of their struggles and successes.

One of the OAC’s most actively-involved members is also one of our youngest. Maria Caprigno began her journey with the OAC at the age of 14, advocating on behalf of other children struggling with obesity. The winner of the 2013 Barbara Thompson Award for Advocacy, Maria shares her story of accomplishments and personal growth as an OAC Advocate:

Maria Caprigno

My introduction to and involvement with the Obesity Action Coalition began in May 2010, I was three months post-op from a sleeve gastrectomy and days away from turning 15 when I accompanied OAC President and CEO Joe Nadglowski and OAC Policy Consultant Chris Gallagher to Capitol Hill. On this first trip to the Capitol, I was asked to share my story of struggling with childhood obesity and seeking bariatric surgery as a freshman in high school in an effort to convince members of Congress to support and pass legislation naming September National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Looking back on that day, I can say wholeheartedly that this was a defining experience in my life; spending that day sharing my story and advocating for other children and adolescents struggling with obesity was one of the most exhilarating, terrifying, and enjoyable days of my life. I flew home to Massachusetts that night proud that I was able to get the courage to speak to all of these important people about my weight and my struggles, but also wondering if my newfound pluck had really made a difference. I learned it had, when I saw a poster in my surgeon’s office that September explaining that it was National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. At that moment, I knew that I could make a real difference in the lives of so many people through advocacy.

The Obesity Action Coalition’s advocacy work has helped so many of the 93 million Americans suffering with obesity in this country by influencing and impacting legislation, but the OAC’s advocacy work has also impacted me as an individual. That first day on Capitol Hill with the OAC let me know that I can make a difference and that my voice matters, and because of that, I have gone back to the Capitol multiple times with them, as well as developed the self-confidence to advocate for myself and other children and adolescents suffering with obesity in multiple forums. Advocating with the Obesity Action Coalition has led me to develop a sense of confidence and self-worth that I never had before. I am not only more confident in my abilities, but I feel assured knowing that I have the OAC to help and guide me. They are such a well-informed, kind, and caring support system who want me as a patient to know that my voice and my story matters.

- Maria Caprigno

Maria’s story is indicative of the profound impact the OAC’s advocacy work has on the lives of all individuals in this country who are affected by the disease of obesity.  This is one example of many who have been touched by the power of the OAC voice. DONATE TODAY to support the OAC’s advocacy work. Your donation WILL make a difference and help us STRENGTHEN THE OAC VOICE and continue the fight for the proper care and treatment of obesity.

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