As Health Reform Takes Shape, Leading Medical and Public Health Organizations Join Effort to Keep Obesity Front and Center

Eight medical groups, public health associations and obesity experts joined the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance today as the organization accelerates outreach to public and private sector decision makers grappling with the high costs of weight-related health conditions — such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“Any national health reform discussion that does not address the impact of obesity will ultimately be unable to meet the goals of better health and more affordable care,” said 17th U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, Health and Wellness Chairperson of the STOP Obesity Alliance and President of Canyon Ranch Institute. “Obesity threatens every segment of our society — from our military to our schools. These medical professionals and public health officials bring additional fire power to the Alliance’s recommendations for action to help reverse the obesity epidemic.” 

The STOP Obesity Alliance, based at The George Washington University Department of Health Policy (GW), is run by a Steering Committee of business, labor, insurance, quality, consumer and medical organizations. The new Associate Members will participate in efforts to remove the barriers preventing greater national attention and progress on managing and preventing obesity. 

New Associate Members include the American Association of Diabetes Educators, American College of Sports Medicine, American Society of Bariatric Physicians, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Campaign to End Obesity, Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Together, they strengthen the Alliance’s membership, and further its reach into the health system, medical, education and policy arenas. 

The Alliance also announced today the addition of a new obesity expert as part of its research and policy staff. Morgan Downey, formerly the executive vice president of The Obesity Society and chief executive officer of the American Obesity Association, joined the team at GW as policy advisor to the STOP Obesity Alliance. He will help drive key research, writing and advocacy efforts. Among Mr. Downey’s many accomplishments are his successful efforts in creating policy changes that recognize obesity as a chronic disease at numerous government organizations. 

Representatives from the new member organizations met today for their first meeting at GW, and received a briefing on several upcoming Alliance outreach and research initiatives including the Alliance’s annual obesity decision makers survey and a series of educational roundtables for governmental and private sector audiences. The group also heard from guest speaker, Victoria Brown, Healthcare Initiative Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, who discussed the organization’s programs and experiences in working with groups from different sectors. 

“As our leaders attempt health reform, they need informed guidance on obesity’s effect on the nation and the health system,” said Christine Ferguson, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance. “Businesses and institutions across society are at a breaking point when it comes to managing the impact of obesity-linked chronic diseases — and they are calling out for help. The Alliance’s strength is aligning diverse perspectives into common recommendations and tools that can help leaders across the country make the changes we need.” 

Affecting 60 million adults, the overweight and obese population is one of the fastest growing segments in American society. Weight-related chronic disease — diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers — is the country’s second-highest cause of preventable death behind smoking. The condition costs the nation $117 billion in direct and indirect costs, including healthcare, treatment, lost productivity, and absenteeism.

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