Anti-obesity medications can holistically transform lives

July 9, 2024

In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared obesity an epidemic in the United States. In the quarter of a century since then, obesity now affects almost 42% of American adults.

The situation is more dire in communities of color as well as those who lack access to adequate healthcare – Black adults have the highest rates of obesity in the U.S at 49.9%, while 45.6% of Hispanic adults are impacted. In addition, the prevalence of obesity in rural communities is on average 6.2 times higher than our suburban and urban counties, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is evident that obesity has progressively gotten worse in our most vulnerable communities. Thankfully, the scientific community has made advancements in treatments for obesity. Now is the time to move away from antiquated views on obesity, as the American Medical Association recently announced its support of insurance companies covering the cost of anti-obesity medications. This is a step in the right direction, but we need our federal government to act and cover AOMs through Medicare Part D.  

Obesity is not a disease caused by poor life choices or a lack of willpower to exercise. Rather, obesity is a multifactorial disease that has devastating consequences. Research released by NIH states that individuals suffering from obesity have a 50% to 100% increased risk of premature death compared to others, which is a more distinct gap than that between smokers and non-smokers. Obesity-related cardiovascular disease deaths alone tripled between 1999 and 2020, and some research suggests that almost 60% of Black women have some form of cardiovascular disease. 

Put simply, we don’t have to sit back and allow tens of thousands of people to suffer unnecessarily in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. According to a groundbreaking study in the New England Journal of Medicine, AOMs can reduce the risk of serious heart problems by up to 20%. While the popular opinion is that AOMs are simply cosmetic treatments, this research proves they can help improve hundreds of thousands of American lives.  

As a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast, I am grateful for the role that exercise has played in my life. Yet, many Americans living with obesity are unable to start their fitness journey due to the associated diseases that afflict them. For this reason, it is worth reiterating that AOMs are not cosmetic devices – they can holistically transform lives. Through more equitable AOMs coverage, our leaders can empower people to start their fight against obesity. By doing so, we can transform America into a healthier and happier nation. 

Given the positive impact AOMs will have on the overall quality of our nation’s health, it is imperative for Congress and the White House to make AOMs available through Medicare Part D. We have the tools to fix this; what we need are the leaders to enact the change in policy.

Yiorgos Rigakos is a personal trainer/coach at Rehoboth Beach Barbell Club.
  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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