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Federal Government Can Combat Obesity, We Must Urge Them

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Cesar Chavez

Communities often feel the effect of health epidemics locally first. It’s well known that in America communities of color usually get hit first and worst. Obesity was declared a public health epidemic almost 25 years ago and it along with obesity-related health effects continues to ravage our communities.

As a former Arizona State Representative, I have seen firsthand how our community has been struggling with obesity and its health effects. Twenty years is too long. It’s time for our leaders to get serious and treat obesity like we have the opioid or smoking epidemics.

Some studies estimate as many as 500,000 Americans succumb to obesity-related illnesses each year making it one of our nation›s leading causes of death. The financial toll exacted by these diseases is equally staggering.  A report by the Joint Economic Committee estimates that the current additional healthcare cost per person to treat obesity is almost $10,000 annually and is expected to be over $14,000 by 2033. Furthermore, the CDC reports that obesity-related expenses alone contribute to nearly $1.73 trillion in annual spending, representing 9.3% of U.S. GDP overall.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study that unveils promising results in reducing serious cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks and strokes with anti-obesity medications (AOMs), especially for those already suffering from obesity. Even the American Medical Association has recently thrown its support behind full standard benefit coverage of AOMs.

Due to stigma, many people suffering from obesity are afraid to ask for help, worse yet when they do seek treatment, they face discrimination and judgment, further isolating them.  Because society views obesity as a personal failure rather than a disease with a known source and a foreseeable outcome, many patients are unable to seek or access the care they need.

One of the fastest and most effective methods we must fight this epidemic is to expand access to AOMs through Medicare Part D. These FDA-approved AOMs can combat obesity and have shown a 20% risk reduction in serious heart problems among individuals suffering from both heart disease and obesity.

Only seven states in the union have an obesity rate of under 30%. We have a staggering n% rate of obesity. There is a growing body of evidence showing AOM’s efficacy in combating not only obesity but also the serious medical complications that often accompany it. In simple terms: addressing obesity results in a two-fold benefit of reduced healthcare spending and an enhanced quality of life for our communities.

For years, our leaders in Washington have labored toward expanding access to treatments, and evidence shows now is the time for action. We stand at a turning point. This moment unequivocally calls for an urgent need to bolster accessible healthcare within our communities. Congressional leaders must collaborate with the administration on updating coverage policies and making AOMs available through Medicare Part D.

We need bold leadership to combat the obesity epidemic that has hammered our community. As a former Arizona State Representative, I call upon our congressional leaders and the administration to work together and get these critical drugs to patients. Everyone deserves to have happy and whole lives, it’s time we deliver and build a brighter future. 

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