October 13, 2023
Media contact: National Consumers League – Nancy Glick, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-823-8442 NCOA –Simona Combi, Simona.email@example.com, 571-527-3982
Washington, D.C. – With growing evidence that U.S. adults with obesity feel stigmatized and ignored by their health care providers, the National Consumers League (NCL) and National Council on Aging (NCOA) today urged health professionals, insurers and employers to join a national movement to define quality obesity care as a right for every American.
Taking the case directly to health professionals on the front lines in delivering obesity care, NCL and NCOA used The Obesity Society’s annual meeting in Dallas October 14-17 to announce plans to provide Americans with an Obesity Bill of Rights. Today, over 100 million adults are living with obesity (42 percent of the public), yet only 10 percent get help from medical professionals. An Obesity Bill of Rights has the potential to transform obesity care by empowering Americans to demand the respect of their health providers and to be screened, diagnosed, and effectively treated for their obesity based on medical treatment guidelines.
“For too long, adults with obesity have encountered a healthcare system that works against them. They are stigmatized, discriminated against, not treated with respect by their health providers, and confront significant obstacles in receiving the care they deserve. ” said Sally Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer of the National Consumers League. “This must change; we need an overhaul of the health system, and we believe an Obesity Bill of Rights can drive this transformation.”
Because this change will only happen if there is agreement on a set of basic rights that ensure adults with obesity receive respectful, timely, and effective obesity care, NCL and NCOA unveiled www.Right2ObesityCare.org, a new online engagement platform, so the nation’s health providers, insurers and employers can play a role in developing the Obesity Bill of Rights. Right2ObesityCare.org explains the purpose and research-driven process and encourages a wide range of health professionals – from obesity medicine specialists and physicians to dietitians, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, health educators, and mental health professionals – to contribute their ideas.
Town Halls Chart the Obstacles for Adults with Obesity and Their Providers
Along with hearing from health professionals, the Obesity Bill of Rights will be informed by the insights of both adults with obesity and their health providers who participated in four town hall meetings that NCL and NCOA hosted across the country. Held in senior centers and churches in
California, Delaware, Mississippi, and Oklahoma between June and August 2023, the town halls involved more than 250 older adults, community leaders, and local clinicians who laid bare a healthcare system that is inhospitable to delivering quality obesity care.
When asked to share their experiences, older adults attending the town halls spoke of feeling invisible when seeing a health provider, not being listened to, and being treated with disdain when they initiated conversations about their obesity. At the same time, physicians described feeling inadequate to provide obesity care due to the limited time for counseling, not enough training in obesity management, inadequate coverage and reimbursement for obesity care, and needing better tools to help patients recognize obesity risks. This confirms research that finds adults with excess weight often feel unwelcome in the doctor’s office or believe that seeking help for obesity signifies moral failure. 
“This is a chronic condition that no one wants to talk about,” said Ramsey Alwin, NCOA President and CEO. “For several decades, NCOA has worked to empower older adults to better manage their chronic conditions. To break down barriers related to obesity, we held town halls that allowed both older adults and their health providers to relay their lived experiences. What we learned is that encouraging more people to seek obesity care requires an investment in science-based, easy-to-understand, accessible information about obesity; a healthcare system that encourages informed decision-making and patient-centered care; and effective public policy that requires health plans to provide access to the treatments deemed appropriate by the health provider, including lifestyle interventions, FDA-approved weight loss medications, and bariatric surgery.”
Mobilizing for Change
With the townhalls as a guidepost, NCL and NCOA are now leading a rigorous process to finalize and release the Obesity Bill of Rights to the medical community and public before the end of 2023. The process includes hosting a meeting of top experts to review a preliminary draft with recommendations for refinement. NCL and NCOA will also seek feedback from specialists in minority health, aging, and rural health, as well as health professionals and other stakeholders who offer advice through the online engagement platform.
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. The organization’s mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the national voice for every person’s right to age well. We believe that how we age should not be determined by gender, color, sexuality, income, or ZIP code. Working with thousands of national and local partners, we provide resources, tools, best practices, and advocacy to ensure every person can age with health and financial security. Founded in 1950, we are the oldest national organization focused on older adults. Learn more at www.ncoa.org.
 Hales CM,, et al. Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: United States, 2017-2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NCHS Data Brief. No. 360. February 2020.
 Stokes A, et al. Prevalence and Determinants of Engagement with Obesity Care in the United States. Obesity. Vol. 26, Issue 5; May 2018, 814-818
 Gunther S, et al. Barriers and enablers to managing obesity in general practice: a practical approach for use in implementation activities. Qual Prim Care. 2012; 20: 93-103