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Joint Statement on Access to Obesity Care

December 8, 2022 - Access to care for people with chronic diseases is one of the top priorities for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As part of our work to help eliminate roadblocks to obesity treatment, the Academy worked closely with the Obesity Society, Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity Medicine Association, American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and the STOP Obesity Alliance to issue a joint statement on obesity as a disease. The purpose of the statement is to give the groups a shared starting point for talking about obesity that is consistent with how other chronic diseases are discussed.

Obesity is a highly prevalent chronic disease characterized by excessive fat accumulation or distribution that presents a risk to health and requires lifelong care. Virtually every system in the body is affected by obesity. Major chronic diseases associated with obesity include diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The body mass index (weight in kg/height in meters2) is used to screen for obesity, but it does not displace clinical judgement. BMI is not a measure of body fat. Social determinants, race, ethnicity and age may modify the risk associated with a given BMI.

Bias and stigmatization directed at people with obesity contributes to poor health and impairs treatment.

Every person with obesity should have access to evidence-based treatment.

This joint statement complements many years of work by the Academy and its members to better understand and treat patients living with obesity. Earlier this year, a systematic review of 62 randomized controlled trials was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on the effectiveness of weight management interventions provided by registered dietitian nutritionists. The review found strong evidence for the effectiveness of RDNs in helping patients improve a variety of cardiometabolic outcomes and quality of life.

The Academy also has a long history of advocating for access to care. The Academy is a proud champion of the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act, which would provide coverage of medical nutrition therapy for Medicare beneficiaries with a number of diseases and conditions including obesity. The Academy is also a champion of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, which would provide access to intensive behavioral therapy from an RDN and access to anti-obesity medications for Medicare beneficiaries.

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