July 19, 2004
The Honorable Thomas Thompson
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington DC 20201
Dear Secretary Thompson:
I am writing on behalf of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) to applaud you on your new policy regarding obesity. As a founding organizer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Reimbursement Initiative we are extremely pleased to learn that the Coverage Issues Manual of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) will no longer state, “Obesity is not an illness.” NAASO has been calling for this change for more than three years and we are very pleased to see it become a reality.
This was the right decision from a physiological, medical and public health perspective. Obesity identifies patients who are at increased risk for adverse health outcomes just as high blood pressure identifies patients who are at increased risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, the chronic and relapsing nature of obesity and the need for lifelong therapy are consistent with the clinical features of other chronic diseases.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. The prevalence of obesity in children and adults has doubled in the last 30 years. Therefore, it is now particularly important that the medical community provide treatment for Americans affected by obesity. Unfortunately, most medical policies are rooted in outdated beliefs and a popular culture that continues to blame the victims of obesity rather than understand and treat the disorder. These policies subject obese patients to medical discrimination and hamper their ability to obtain appropriate health care. Changing the Coverage Issues Manual is an important step in recognizing the true nature of obesity and starting this nation on a course towards better health.
We understand that your announcement of July 15 is just the beginning and that obesity science will be playing a major role in the full development of CMS policies regarding obesity. As the only scientific organization dedicated to the field of obesity, I offer our full assistance in developing further policies. NAASO looks forward to working with the Department on this very important issue in the near future.
Barbara Corkey, PhD