GW Founds the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance (STOP Obesity Alliance)

May 27, 2007

The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Aligns Patient, Provider, Business, Labor, Health Insurance and Quality Organizations to Change the Way America Understands and Fights Obesity

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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 7, 2007 – The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (GW) announced today a powerful collaboration of patient, provider, business, labor, health insurance and quality organizations to change society’s perceptions of, and approaches to, treating obesity.  These groups have joined forces to create the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance (STOP Obesity Alliance) to reverse America’s rise in preventable, weight-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

The Alliance will operate out of the GW School of Public Health and Health Services Department of Health Policy, under the direction of Christine Ferguson, JD, a former public health commissioner for the state of Massachusetts who is now on faculty at the University.

“America is in a race against obesity and we’re tripping over hurdles we don’t even see,” said Ferguson. “We can and must win the race or risk having a population that overwhelms our current systems. And that starts with inspiring people—whether they are overweight or not—to engage in building hope and creating lasting change.”

The initial charge of the STOP Obesity Alliance is to form consensus on the different barriers—some systemic, some cultural—that prevent effective weight management. The goal is to break down those barriers, seek out and build on current promising efforts, and develop new approaches and actions. Groups that have signed on to form the STOP Obesity Alliance’s steering committee reflect the key systems that this initiative will target for change. They include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Medical Group Association, Disease Management Association of America, National Business Group on Health, National Committee for Quality Assurance, National Quality Forum and the Service Employees International Union. Together, they will provide guidance, communications and research support to the Alliance.

Affecting nearly two-thirds of adults, the overweight and obese population is one of the fastest growing segments in American society. Excess weight, specifically abdominal obesity, increases the incidence of insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension and other health problems. In fact, obesity is the country’s second highest cause of preventable death behind smoking.

“There is no lack of science proving the seriousness of overweight and obesity and its link to deadly conditions such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Ferguson. “The Alliance will drive home the broader impact of weight and identify practical solutions that both improve health and have a clear return on investment. The good news is that great work is already being done and the structure and diverse nature of the Alliance will allow us to amplify and expand the impact of those efforts.”

Specifically, the Alliance leaders and steering committee will work on a tiered action plan to: 1) conduct and assemble research that identifies any cultural and systemic biases in combating obesity; 2) consider research-based initiatives to improve patient care and prevention; and 3) make recommendations for and promote needed systems changes.

According to Ferguson, the Alliance will examine the disconnect between the scientific data demonstrating the harmful health and economic effects of overweight and obesity, and the insufficient action to change the systems that form barriers against effective weight management. The initiative will find paths to overcome these barriers to help break the cycle of failure most adults face in achieving and maintaining weight loss. It also will explore what has been effective and why, in order to map out steps for real change.

The Alliance is sponsored by Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, a world leader in the pharmaceutical industry with a commitment to improving public health and a heritage to therapeutic areas, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The idea for this initiative was born from the company’s recognition that making a meaningful difference demands support that extends far beyond a portfolio of products. Sanofi-Aventis will serve as a non-voting member of the STOP Obesity Alliance so the group can easily tap into the knowledge amassed by the company through its work in obesity, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease.

“We’re excited about the possibilities of this unique partnership and its ability to foster and change behaviors and the public dialogue about overweight, obesity and what we can do about this serious medical condition,” said Tim Rothwell, chairman, Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Pharmaceutical Activities. “We have great confidence in this all-star public health team in changing the status quo so that more people have a chance to live healthier lives.”

About Overweight and Obesity

Considerable evidence suggests that overweight and obesity are associated with significantly increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, certain forms of cancer, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. Previously, obesity experts concentrated on total body fat as the main predictor of weight-related disease. Now, location of fatty tissue is thought to be equally if not more important than total body fat. Specifically, excessive body fat stored around the stomach and abdomen is a key risk factor for weight-related disease.1 The risks of many medical complications grow with increasing body mass index and abdominal obesity:

  • Almost 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight2. In addition, in one large study of more than 27,000 people, those in the highest 10 percent of waist circumference were 20 times more likely to get type 2 diabetes than those in the lowest 10 percent of waist circumference3
    • Research shows that even small amounts of weight loss in the range of 5-10 percent can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes among high-risk adults4
  • In the Framingham Offspring Study, obesity was responsible for 78 percent of cases of hypertension in men and 64 percent in women5
  • High waist circumference has been shown to increase risk of death by 35 percent compared to normal waist circumference6
  • The well-known Nurses Health Study of more than 44,000 women found high waist circumference resulted in a two-fold increase in coronary heart disease7
  • Overweight and obesity are clearly associated with increased risks for certain types of cancer, including kidney, endometrial, colorectal and postmenopausal breast cancer8
  • The prevalence of obesity and overweight has dramatically increased over the past 25 years, moving from 46 percent of the population during 1976-80 to 64 percent in 1999-2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Survey9
  • A study in the journal Health Affairs, noted that per person healthcare spending for obese adults is 56 percent higher than for normal-weight adults. Over 15 years, the additional costs incurred by obese adults with private health insurance versus normal-weight adults increased from $272 to $1,244 per person per year10
  • A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that obese employees file twice as many workers’ compensation claims, have seven times higher medical costs, and 13 times more lost work days than their non-obese counterparts11
  • Obesity is also the prime culprit behind the recent sharp increases in Medicare spending. The number of obese Medicare recipients nearly doubled between 1987 and 2002 and the cost of treating them almost tripled.12


1 Wang Y, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Comparison of abdominal adiposity and overall obesity in predicting risk of type 2 diabetes among men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:555-563.

2 Mokdad A, Ford ES, Bowman BA, et al. Diabetes trends in the US: 1990-1998. Diabetes Care 2000; 23:1278-83.

3 Wang Y, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Comparison of abdominal adiposity and overall obesity in predicting risk of type 2 diabetes among men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:555-563.

4 NAASO, The Obesity Society. Fact Sheet: Your Weight and Diabetes. Available at: www. Accessed April 16, 2007.

5 Garrison, RJ, et al. Incidence and precursors of hypertension in young adults: The Framingham Offspring Study, Prev Med 1987; 16, 235-25.

6 Dagenais GR, Yi Q, Mann JF, Bosch J, Pogue J, Yusuf S. Prognostic impact of body weight and abdominal obesity in women and men with cardiovascular disease. Am Heart J. 2005;149:54-60.

7 Rexrode KM, Carey VS, Hennekens CH, et al. Abdominal adiposity and coronary heart disease in women. JAMA. 1998;280:1843-1848.

8 Curry SJ, Byers T, Hewitt M, Eds. Fulfilling the Potential for Cancer Prevention and Early Detection. National Cancer Policy Board. Institute of Medicine. National Research Council of the National Academies. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2003.

9 Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Adults: United States, 1999-2002. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Center for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics; Hyattsville, MD: Published October 2004.

10 Sturm R. The Effects of Obesity, Smoking, and Drinking on Medical Problems and Costs, Health Affairs. Mar/Apr 2002: 245-253.

11 Østbye T, Dement JM, Krause KM. Obesity and Workers’ Compensation: Results from the Duke Health and Safety Surveillance System, Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:766-773.

12 Thorpe KE. Howard DH. The rise in spending among medicare beneficiaries: the role of chronic disease prevalence and changes in treatment intensity. Health Affairs. September/October 2006; 25(5):w378-w388.