Addressing the obesity epidemic, members of the American Osteopathic Association's (AOA) House of Delegates voted to urge federal and state policymakers and health insurers to cover treatments for severe obesity, including bariatric surgical procedures.
According to a release, obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, is associated with more than 300,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Surgeon General, and severe obesity is defined as having a BMI of more than 35.
Although bariatric surgery has been shown to be an effective long- term treatment, universal coverage for all effective treatments for severe obesity is not available.
"If we're going to treat the whole person, surgery is an important component of obesity treatment," says Adam B. Smith, DO, a surgeon at Fort Worth (Texas) Lap-Band, a weight loss and bariatric medicine surgical practice.
Citing more than 15 years of clinical research data on gastric bypass surgery and some 10 years of data on laparoscopic gastric banding that show weight loss surgery often leads to significant improvements in obesity-related illnesses-especially Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea-Dr. Smith explains that bariatric surgery is an effective treatment in addition to nonsurgical treatments for helping once-severely obese people maintain their weight loss.
"We're not making these people look like Barbie. We're treating a disease surgically," clarifies Dr. Smith, who is also a delegate to the AOA's House representing the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, the group that proposed the obesity treatment policy.
Additionally, the new policy directs the AOA to support the Obesity Action Coalition's efforts to secure coverage for all recognized treatments for severe obesity. The coalition is the only national nonprofit organization with the sole focus of helping individuals affected by obesity.
The AOA's House of Delegates is comprised of more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country.
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