Obesity Medicine Association Takes “Science of Hope” Message to Capitol Hill

| December 1, 2018

by Claudia Randall

Executive Director of the Obesity Medicine Association, Denver, Colorado.

Funding: No funding was provided for this article.

Disclosures: The author is the executive director of the Obesity Medicine Association.

Bariatric Times. 2018;15(12):14.


Can the medical profession overcome obesity? That proposition was the central theme of the Obesity Medicine Association’s (OMA) recent Overcoming Obesity 2018 Conference in Washington, D.C., which brought together nearly 1,000 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals to learn about the latest advancements in obesity medicine.

“We mean ‘overcoming’ in two senses. First, we mean doing the hard work of helping society move beyond over a half century struggle with disordered eating and weight loss,” OMA President Wendy Scinta, MD, FOMA, said during the opening address at the conference.

“But just as importantly, we mean helping patients overcome their own struggles with obesity,” she said. “The reason we’re here [in Washington] today is because we know what works, and there’s no one else in the world better positioned to bring relief and support to these folks than the people in this room.”

Dr. Scinta and OMA Executive Director Claudia Randall updated OMA members and attendees on the progress the association has made on the advocacy and education fronts.

“The OMA has been working for years now to see that obesity gets treated by lawmakers and the rest of the medical community in the same way we treat all other diseases. It’s been hard to convince the wider world that obesity is a disease that has a cure, but we’re making progress,” Scinta said.

In 2018, efforts toward those goals have accelerated with OMA-backed advocacy and education initiatives.

In July, for example, members of the OMA’s Board of Trustees met with the United States Government Accountability Office to explain why it was so important to get coverage of anti-obesity medications under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

To extend its advocacy efforts to the state level, the OMA established its new State Advocacy Representative (STAR) program, which is designed to get OMA’s message in front of state legislatures and regulatory agencies.

Randall said the OMA advocacy committee has created an online toolkit to help STARs access government resources and get in contact with key players, like state insurance commissioners and state legislators. Early signs are encouraging, she reported, as OMA STARs begin work in 31 states.

The OMA also has a federal advocacy program and participates in the Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN), a consortium of groups with the mission of elevating obesity on the national agenda. The Overcoming Obesity 2018 Conference kicked off with a large advocacy effort on Capitol Hill.

OMA members and OCAN representatives met with several members of the House of Representatives and Senate to advocate for the passage of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. When passed, this bill will provide Medicare beneficiaries with access to weight management counseling and allow for coverage of United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications for chronic weight management. While the legislation is focused on improving access to obesity treatments under Medicare, it is important to remember that private and employer-based insurance plans often base their coverage on Medicare.

“As advocates, we’re getting more attention from Washington and state capitals than we’ve ever had,” Dr. Scinta said. “And, more and more, patients are becoming aware of the work we do and how we fit into their medical team. They’re learning that obesity clinics are welcoming spaces where they’ll be treated like a complete person.”

The conference paired advocacy with education to create a more comprehensive experience and helped make the connection between hope and healing. Among the top-rated lectures were the following:

An Obesity Medicine Approach to Managing Diabetes and Weight-related Complications, by Jeffrey Sicat, MD, FACE, FOMA

Pharmacologic Combination Treatment Options for Obesity Management, by Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS

Mindful Eating: A Technique for Patients, by Steve Taubman, DC, MDH

Tackling Weight Bias Inside and Outside the Clinic, by Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, and Patricia M. Nece, JD

Body Mass Index: The Great Debate, by Harold Bays, MD, FTOS, FACC, FACE, FNLA, FOMA, and W. Timothy Garvey, MD

Scinta’s closing comments summarized the urgency felt by attendees at the meeting.

“The great thing about our conference theme, ‘Overcoming Obesity,’ is that it’s not past tense or future tense. We’re not here to talk about how obesity could have been cured, or about how we’ll figure it out 100 years from now. We’re here to talk about overcoming obesity today!”

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