Anti-obesity meds can reduce health disparities and save Black lives

by Jonathan KinlochWayne County Commissioner (District 2) 

Over 35% of adults in Michigan are living with obesity, including 42% of Black adults. Obesity disproportionately impacts communities of color who already face systemic inequities in healthcare. Higher rates of obesity put communities of color at a greater risk for other serious chronic diseases. Black Americans are 77% and Latinx Americans are 66%more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to their white counterparts, a disease that increases the likelihood for life threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke. Solving systemic racial inequity in our healthcare system will require comprehensive action, and outdated policies barring access to affordable obesity care are further exacerbating health disparities.

Those suffering from obesity are too often blamed for their weight; constantly being told they are not making good decisions. From friends and family to their own healthcare providers, they experience discrimination and bias from all sides. Many have searched high and low for affordable options and treatments to help manage what since 2013, the medical community has acknowledged as a disease. After finally finding providers who want to help, for many, they find the treatment is not covered by insurance so simply out of reach.

We must put an end to the stigma and treat obesity as the complex and treatable disease that it is. Obesity was declared an epidemic by the CDC in 1999 and is now one of our most pressing public health concerns. New data shows that almost 42% of Americans are living with obesity, and it is particularly harrowing for communities of color. Close to half of all Black Americans and over 45% of Latino Americans suffer from the disease. Considering that a study by the Joint Economic Committee points out that obesity causes a notable shorter lifespan and is a leading contributor of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer, this is devastating to our communities. The American Heart Association has estimated that as high as almost 60% of Black women have a cardiovascular disease linked to obesity.

Our laws and regulations must be driven by science, including recognizing, and treating obesity as a disease.  Successful obesity treatment involves weight reduction and improvements in related comorbidities.  Anti-obesity medications (AOMs) are an important component in fighting this disease and helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other complications. We need our Congressional leaders to work with the administration on Medicare coverage policy updates that will help the millions of Americans who need access to lifesaving care by making these medications available through Medicare Part D.

Obesity is a costly epidemic, yet despite the conclusive evidence that obesity is a treatable disease, Medicare does not cover safe, FDA-approved anti-obesity medications. Until legislators recognize obesity as the life-threatening disease that it is, millions will continue to suffer needlessly.

Jonathan C. Kinloch is a Wayne County Commissioner and serves on the Board of Directors for Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, also known as the Wayne County Mental Health Authority.

About Post Author


From the Web

Skip to content