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WASHINGTON, D.C. – When it comes to improving health, physical activity has significant and widespread benefits regardless of one’s weight. This finding, supported by a growing evidence base, prompted members of the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance to create a new policy recommendation focused on fitness as a marker for health. Specifically, the coalition calls for encouraging interventions and creating environments that support physical activity, in order to improve health, independent of weight or weight loss.
Leading today’s national webinar to discuss the recommendation, Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th U.S. Surgeon General, Health and Wellness Chairperson of the Alliance, and President of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute said “Expanding the Alliance’s Policy Recommendations to emphasize physical activity is another important step in conveying to all decision makers how they can make a positive difference in people’s ability to improve their health and well-being, and decrease the numerous burdens of obesity on all sectors of society.”
The STOP Obesity Alliance is a diverse coalition of consumer, provider, government, labor, business, health insurer and quality-of-care organizations working to change how America approaches the problem of obesity, overweight and weight-related health risks, including heart disease and diabetes. The coalition added the physical activity recommendation to its list of policies for public and private sector decision makers, which also focus on 1) redefining success, 2) encouraging innovation, 3) addressing and reducing stigma and 4) broadening the research agenda. Together, the recommendations provide policy makers with specific, research-based guidelines for crafting obesity policies designed to improve health.
“The science surrounding physical activity and fitness has reached a point that our Steering Committee members agreed it was time to update our recommendations and note the importance of physical activity in overall health and disease prevention,” said Christine Ferguson, J.D., Director of the Alliance.
During the webinar “Policies for Change in Overweight and Obesity,” Adrian Hutber, Ph.D., Vice President at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), spoke about the ACSM’s Exercise is Medicine program and how leaders can use the program to put the recommendation of physical activity into action. Alliance steering committee members LuAnn Heinen of the National Business Group on Health and Laurie Whitsel of the American Heart Association presented information about the Alliance’s four other recommendations. Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles, a member of the Alliance, offered insights about issues facing employers and discussed options for investing in employee wellness to reduce health care costs.
“I recommend that we use the model of health literacy as a successful approach to behavior change,” said Dr. Carmona. “The time is right because we have and understand the best science about obesity the world has ever known. The science has been evaluated and communicated. We are asking policy makers and other decision makers to use the science to make informed decisions that will help reduce the burden of obesity on our nation.”
About the STOP Obesity Alliance Policy Recommendations
The Alliance’s policy recommendations focus on five key areas where both the private and public sectors can take action to overcome and prevent overweight and obesity.
- Redefining Success: A growing body of evidence suggests that losing between five to 10 percent of current weight leads to major health improvements, including decreasing risks for diabetes and heart disease. However, there is no shared, evidence-based definition of what constitutes successful weight loss, leaving the field open to interpretation. The Alliance recommends promoting the use of a sustained loss of five to 10 percent of current weight as a key measure to judge the effectiveness of weight-reduction interventions.
- Encouraging Innovation and Best Practices in Obesity Treatment: The Alliance recommends innovative approaches for obesity treatment, intervention, and disease management for patients who have been unsuccessful with traditional nutrition and exercise only programs. Currently, individual programs rarely leverage possible best practice models that combine multiple interventions, such as diet, exercise, medication, and behavioral treatment.
- Addressing and Reducing Stigma as a Barrier to Obesity Treatment: No evidence suggests that stigmatizing overweight and obese individuals is a motivator for losing weight. The Alliance recommends that healthcare professionals, government, and private entities address the issue in a way that promotes open discussion rather than isolating those who are affected. The Alliance recognizes the broader societal barriers to weight loss and promotes programs that go beyond recognizing the single role of personal responsibility.
- Broadening the Research Agenda for Obesity: Healthcare decision makers need reliable information to assess the relative value of preventing and reducing obesity. The Alliance recommends a broadened research agenda that examines all of the important factors contributing to the obesity epidemic and how they interact with each other, as well as applied research to address the immediate needs of payers, providers, individuals and others on the front lines.
- Encouraging Physical Activity for Improved Health:Physical activity has significant and widespread benefits, regardless of one’s weight. Therefore, encouraging physical activity will improve health, independent of weight or weight loss, resulting in a healthier population. The Alliance encourages interventions and creating environments and systems that support active living as well as moderate-vigorous physical activity to improve health, independent of weight or weight loss.
The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance is a collaboration of consumer, provider, government, labor, business, health insurers and quality-of-care organizations united to drive innovative and practical strategies that combat obesity. The STOP Obesity Alliance receives funding from founding sponsor, Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, and supporting sponsor, Allergan, Inc. For more information, visit www.stopobesityalliance.org.
Gina Mangiaracina | 202-609-6003