by James Zervios, OAC Vice President of Marketing and Communications
To view a PDF version of this article, CLICK HERE.
“Doctor, I feel like my weight is starting to affect my health.”
“Well, maybe you should push away from the table and get a little more active.”
“Fat people are not allowed at buffet restaurants anymore!”
“You know what? You did it to yourself! Why should I pay for your weight?”
Statements such as these would’ve been completely acceptable 10 years ago. In fact, these statements would’ve not only been accepted, but also not refuted in any way, shape or form. Today, that is absolutely not the case because you have 50,000 passionate individuals ready, willing and able to proudly stand with the Nation’s leading organization representing individuals affected by the disease of obesity – the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).
How it All Began
Most individuals do not know the backstory to how the OAC was developed. In 2005, the OAC was founded when, at a meeting of legislators, one elected official stood up and said, “I can eliminate access to obesity surgery in my state today and not a single person would stop me.” In that sentence, the reason for the OAC’s existence was born. Shortly after that, healthcare professionals Robin Blackstone, MD; Georgeann Mallory, RD; and Christopher Still, DO, FACN, FACP, worked with industry representatives to lay the framework for what would become a first-of-its-kind non-profit organization whose sole focus would be to represent individuals impacted by the disease of obesity.
Starting with a small staff of three full-time employees in Tampa, Fla., and a handful of National Board Members, the OAC quickly dove headfirst into taking on important issues such as weight-based discriminatory policies by retail giant Walmart, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s IQ testing requirements to access bariatric surgery and much more.
“The early days for the OAC were interesting,” said Joe Nadglowski, OAC President/CEO, “nobody could argue that individuals affected by this disease were often overlooked and ignored in day-to-day life, work, healthcare and more; however, we would often find a blatant disregard for individuals dealing with weight issues.”
Within its first year, thousands of individuals joined the OAC. You could easily tell buzz was growing and that for the first time, an organization existed that would stand-up for obesity rights and advocate with a passionate voice for all those affected.
OAC Growth and Success
Throughout the next 10 years, the OAC would become a staple in the healthcare community and general public. From visiting the White House to meet with the First Lady’s staff on childhood obesity, to hosting the Inaugural Your Weight Matters National Convention, to distributing more than one million pieces of educational information, the OAC continued to see unparalleled success on many fronts.
“I don’t know that anyone was prepared for the following that the OAC would generate at such an early stage in its life,” said Pam Davis, RN, CBN, MBA, OAC Past-Chairman, “people from all throughout the United States, and even overseas, were interested in joining the Coalition and helping us spread the word about obesity.”
For the first time in history, individuals affected by obesity had a voice. They had a voice shouting back at weight bias. They had a voice telling their healthcare provider that they needed more than an age-old advice of “eat less and move more.” They had a voice advocating for new obesity treatments and access to evidence-based weight-loss options. Simply stated – for the first time, they had a VOICE!
The Future of the OAC – The Future of YOU!
Since its inception, the OAC has seen many successes on many fronts; however, none of these successes would have been achievable without the support of the most important component in the OAC – the membership. Standing with more than 50,000 members nationwide, the OAC has become a mighty force to be reckoned with, and this is why you matter.
“Serving as Chairman of the OAC has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life,” said Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, OAC Chairman, “from attending Your Weight Matters Conventions to advocating on behalf of our membership on Capitol Hill, I cannot help but have a sense of dedication and responsibility to this organization. Seeing where we’ve gone in 10 years excites me because I can only dream of where we will be in the next 10.”
As we look ahead to the next 10 years, it is you, as an OAC supporter, who will help us continue to fight for the rights and needs of all individuals affected by obesity. We, the OAC, are making a commitment to you that we will stand with you and help you along your journey toward improved health. In return, we ask that you make the commitment to stand with us.