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Empowering Change: How the 'Obesity Bill of Rights' is Set to Transform Healthcare

Empowering Change: How the New ‘Obesity Bill of Rights’ is Set to Transform Healthcare

Empowering Change: How the Obesity Bill of Rights is Set to Transform Healthcare

Amid the growing popularity of weight-loss drugs, a beacon of progress shines through with the introduction of an “Obesity Bill of Rights,” championed and embraced by nearly 40 national obesity and chronic disease organizations. This initiative, spearheaded by the National Consumers League and National Council on Aging, collaboratively crafted eight fundamental rights in consultation with leading obesity and medical specialists.

Obesity has long been associated with stigma and discrimination, even within healthcare settings. The Obesity Bill of Rights seeks to address this issue by advocating for the respectful and unbiased treatment of individuals with obesity, fostering an environment that promotes dignity and understanding.

Obesity is a treatable chronic disease, just like diabetes and heart disease. Yet despite significant advances in the science of obesity and effective treatment options, only 10% of people with obesity get help from medical professionals and as few as 2% are treated with new anti-obesity medications. — Right2ObesityCare

The ‘Obesity Bill of Rights’ encompass a vision where individuals have the right to:

1. Receive accurate, clear, trusted, and accessible information about the chronic condition

Ex: Accurate, trusted information about how obesity is treated across the care continuum and the different treatment options, ranging from lifestyle change counseling and FDA-approved anti-obesity medications to bariatric surgery.

Free access to this information in clinics, health care offices, community-based organizations and through a wide variety of channels.

2. Be treated with respect by every member of the care team throughout the treatment journey

Ex: Ask questions about their weight status during all healthcare visits and receive answers and appropriate referrals in a timely manner. Receive information from their health providers in “patient-first” language, which puts a person before a diagnosis, describes the condition the person “has,” and gives the person a sense of dignity when selecting a treatment plan and interacting with members of the care team.

3. Make informed treatment decisions aligned with their health goals and in collaboration with healthcare providers

Ex: Receive a clear, understandable diagnosis based on their degree of excess fat accumulation and their risk factors, such as age, smoking, family history and the presence of obesity-related comorbid conditions.

Expect accurate and thorough information from their health provider about all safe and effective treatment options for their care. These include behavior modification, community-based programs, access to nutritional and/or mental health counseling, medical obesity management, FDA-approved anti-obesity medications, and bariatric surgery.

4. Access quality treatment extending beyond medical care to include counseling and expertise from various professionals

Ex: Be referred to and have insurance coverage for a diverse range of credentialed health professionals (including dietitians, nurses, and health educators) to deliver intensive behavioral therapy (IBT) in a variety of locations. IBT involves counseling patients on nutrition, physical activity and behavior change and is an important yet underutilized component of obesity care because it is often restricted to primary care physician offices.

5. Receive personalized care that acknowledges individual backgrounds, cultures, goals, and beliefs

Ex: Voice a complaint and ask for changes to the care team or treatment plan without fear and interruption of care.

Make a formal complaint to a local or state governing board of a health professional exhibits bad behavior or engages in discriminatory practices associated with weight bias.

6. Access obesity treatment in environments that safeguard privacy and offer weight-accessible equipment and diagnostic scans

Ex: Health spaces and equipment within the clinical environment that are size-and weight-accessible, such as larger hospital beds, lifts and stretchers, examination tables, wheelchairs, scales, and diagnostic/medical equipment in examination and treatment rooms. Diagnostic services from trained radiologists using specialized imaging and image-guided interventions, such as CT scans and MRI machines that are designed for large body sizes.

7. Be respected, irrespective of age, for those seeking obesity care

Ex: Have a care plan tailored to the person’s health goals, stage of life and medical needs.

Receive community-based weight management and obesity treatment services, including support from patient advocates and patient navigators to address the individual’s transportation, dietary needs and financial assistance needs.

8. Benefit from coverage for treatment and access to a diverse range of treatment options

Ex: Comprehensive coverage for obesity treatment under Medicaid plans. Medicare policies that are equitable for all older adults. This requires modernizing the outdated interpretation of Medicare Part D rules that exclude coverage for FDA-approved anti-obesity medications (AOMs) and Medicare Part B rules that restrict access to intensive behavioral therapy solely to primary care providers.

The driving force behind this much needed initiative is a recognition that, for far too long, adults with obesity have faced a healthcare system that has often worked against them. Sally Greenberg, CEO of the National Consumers League, emphasized this sentiment, stating, “They have been stigmatized, discriminated against, not treated with respect by their health providers, and have faced significant hurdles and burdensome requirements to receive obesity care.”

By emphasizing the right to personalized care, the Obesity Bill of Rights aims to shift the healthcare paradigm towards more patient-centered approaches. This includes acknowledging individual backgrounds, cultures, goals, and beliefs, ensuring that care plans are tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals with obesity.

The 37 groups passionately supporting the “Obesity Bill of Rights” are gearing up for a collective push towards national and state-level action, aspiring to codify these rights into medical law and policy. Their unified objective is to see the full realization of the “Obesity Bill of Rights” by December 31, 2029, fostering a healthcare environment that respects, supports, and empowers individuals navigating the complexities of obesity.

Empowering Change: How the New ‘Obesity Bill of Rights’ is Set to Transform Healthcare

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