Treat Obesity Seriously Encourages Treatment of Obesity as a Serious Health Condition, May 9, 2013

Treat Obesity Seriously Encourages Treatment of Obesity as a Serious Health Condition, May 9, 2013

May 2013

New “Treat Obesity Seriously” Effort Encourages

Treatment of Obesity as a Serious Health Condition, Such as Heart Disease and Cancer

The Obesity Society Unveils Tools and Resources to Educate

Policymakers and Support Healthcare Providers


SILVER SPRING, MD - With two out of three adults in the United States affected by obesity or overweight[i] obesity scientists and clinicians are asking that obesity be treated as a serious health condition, such as heart disease and cancer, to bring us closer to combatting the epidemic. The Obesity Society (TOS), the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity, is launching the Treat Obesity Seriously campaign to encourage a shift in the way Americans look at the disease. The effort is aimed at educating policymakers on the need to recognize obesity as a serious condition and providing clinicians the tools to diagnose and treat obesity.

“Obesity is one of the most complex, chronic medical conditions,” said Harvey Grill, PhD, TOS President. “Successful treatment often requires the support and guidance of professionals. Unfortunately, the way many people look at obesity in the U.S. is limiting the treatment approach, which often means lower standards of care, inconsistent communication of treatment options, and disjointed care coordination. Multidisciplinary care is necessary to treat obesity, particularly given the complex nature of the disease and its impact on both physical and mental health.”

It is widely accepted that obesity puts individuals at risk for more than 30 health conditions,[ii] including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.[iii] Obesity also has a strong correlation to depression.[iv] However, evidence increasingly shows that it is harder for some people to take effective steps on their own to lose weight. For example, brain activity studies show that obese people get a smaller “reward” when eating than people of normal weight[v] and each year more genetic factors are found to be associated with obesity.[vi]

As part of the effort, TOS is looking to policymakers to improve access for obesity treatment so those affected can get the same necessary medical care and treatment coverage that’s available to all others who suffer from other chronic diseases. Some members of Congress are already working to improve access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management through Medicare. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

These members recognize the value of treating obesity and understand the personal and population impact of weight loss. In fact, a 5 – 10 percent weight loss alone can have significant benefits for a patients’ health[vii] and new research shows that preventing obesity can have substantial long-term cost savings for the entire healthcare system.[viii]

“Obesity treatment is a smart strategy to improve public health and clinician engagement is an important factor,” said Grill. “Patients are three times more likely to lose weight if their healthcare provider talks to them about the variety of options available for managing and treating the disease.”[ix]

Real-life stories illustrate the impact of healthcare professional involvement in weight loss. Keith Driggers, of Johns Island, South Carolina, battled obesity since age 18 and decided to move forward with treatment when his doctor diagnosed him as prediabetic and emphasized the importance of losing weight to stave off diabetes and resolve other health problems.

“That first conversation with my doctor prompted me to take the next step to address my weight,” said Driggers. “My team of weight loss professionals was truly what helped me to drop the weight. The nearly 140 pounds I lost made me feel physically and emotionally better, and resolved multiple health issues including prediabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, GERD and knee pain.”

Keith’s story is just one of the many that TOS has collected on its website, and what the organization hopes will be many more.

“There are simple and effective ways to talk with patients about weight,” said Grill. “As part of the campaign, we’re working to support healthcare providers in having conversations about Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference, how high scores can negatively impact health and the solutions available to begin managing weight.”

Through the newly launched campaign website,, clinicians can sign up to receive the following tools by mail.

  • BMI prescription pad: Clinicians can record and share information with patients about BMI and waist circumference, two of the primary measures of obesity. The pad also includes information about obesity-related risks and provides links to find out more information about the disease.
  • Physician office poster, “Obesity is a serious disease”: As they wait to see the doctor, patients can learn more about obesity, such as related health conditions and the significant impact moderate weight loss, as little as 5 percent, can have on these conditions.
  • BMI wheel calculator: Technology is not necessary to determine BMI. This simple, circular paper tool allows for a quick calculation of BMI by matching height and weight.

The Treat Obesity Seriously campaign will continue with activities on Capitol Hill and the development of additional, more detailed, resources to help clinicians talk with patients about their weight.

Individuals can support the campaign by visiting the website and sharing Treat Obesity Seriously information and materials with their family, friends and healthcare providers. And, people affected by obesity can find tips about talking to their healthcare provider through Your Weight Matters, developed by The Obesity Action coalition at:

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About The Obesity Society (TOS)

TOS is the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity. Through research, education and advocacy, TOS is committed to improving the lives of those affected by the disease. For more information please visit:

About the Treat Obesity Seriously Campaign

Treat Obesity Seriously is a campaign by TOS to fight obesity, a disease that affects too many Americans. The campaign was developed in collaboration with a corporate advisory council, which includes evidence-based industry organizations who have a shared commitment to help shift the dialogue from blame to solution, and treat obesity as we do other serious health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Visit to learn how to treat obesity seriously and support a solution.

[i] Centers for Disease Control, 2011:

[ii] Trust for America’s Health, 2013:

[iii] Centers for Disease Control, 2011: