Obesity Awareness Campaign Aims to Eliminate Stigma

Obesity can be overcome if individuals take action to share their stories and promote acceptance of treatment options, suggests a new public awareness campaign.

A new online campaign to combat our nation’s rising obesity rate is aimed at empowering people to become advocates at their computers.

Sponsored by Allergan Inc., the makers of the LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding System, the campaign, called C.H.O.I.C.E (Choosing Health over Obesity Inspiring Change through Empowerment), hopes to change the stigmas that surround obesity. By encouraging people to speak out and tell their story, C.H.O.I.C.E. aims to raise awareness that contrary to popular belief, obesity is not a choice but a serious life threatening disease that deserves medical treatment.

According to C.H.O.I.C.E., prevention alone is not enough – more needs to be done to tackle the adult obesity epidemic. The campaign encourages action from various communities, the media, and Congress to help change the American view of obesity and promote acceptance of all treatments, including weight loss surgery for people who are severely obese and have exhausted all other options.

More than 70 million Americans are obese, and 15 million of them are 100 or more pounds overweight. People suffering from obesity are at a greater risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and premature death. President Obama and his team of healthcare advisors have recognized obesity as one of the most significant public health threats and acknowledged the financial strain that the obesity epidemic has put on the healthcare system. The cost of obesity is estimated at $147 billion per year, accounting for more that 10 percent of all medical expenses.

Christine Ferguson, J.D., professor of Public Health at The George Washington University, worries that since people view obesity as a personal choice, treatment is not taken as seriously as it should be and patients are left to fend for themselves.

She said, “Too often, obesity is not treated with the same intensity and seriousness as other chronic conditions. Stigma prevents those who are overweight and obese from getting the treatment they need to regain their health and improve their quality of life.”

People are encouraged to get involved by signing an online petition to Congress, asking their Senators to recognize obesity as a disease and to focus on both treatment and prevention for those who suffer from obesity. For more information, visit www.mychoicecampaign.com.