STOP Obesity Alliance Launches Task Force on Women to Help Improve the Health of Millions of Overweight and Obese Women and Empower the Family’s “Chief Health Officer”

May 13, 2010

Washington, D.C. – The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance today launched its Task Force on Women to take a closer look at the disproportionate grip obesity and chronic disease has on women in the United States.  Enlisting a high-level group of public and private-sector organizations to serve on the committee, the Alliance will work to elevate obesity and chronic disease issues among women on the national policy agenda.

The Task Force, a sub-group of the Alliance’s membership of more than 40 consumer, provider, government, labor, business, insurance and quality-of-care organizations, met for the first time today to discuss topics including weight’s impact on women across the life span – from young adulthood, through the reproductive years, menopause and later years of life.

“In addition to many other roles, women often act as the ‘chief health officer’ for their families – making most medical decisions as well as caring for their children, spouses, parents and themselves.  It’s a lot to do and there are many challenges on the road to success,” said Christine Ferguson, Research Professor at The George Washington University and Director of the STOP Obesity Alliance.  “Rising rates of obesity and chronic disease among women and their families will be front and center for the Alliance’s Task Force on Women in its work to overcome the social, cultural and systemic barriers to addressing obesity.” 

The STOP Obesity Alliance Task Force on Women includes the following organizations: American Association of Diabetes Educators, American College of Sports of Medicine, American Diabetes Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Heart Association, American Medical Women’s Association, American Sleep Apnea Association, Binge Eating Disorders Association, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Canyon Ranch Institute, HealthyWomen, National Association of Social Workers, National Council of La Raza, National Indian Health Board, Society for Women’s Health Research and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. 

The Alliance’s research team from The George Washington University Department of Health Policy presented information to Task Force members on women, weight and chronic disease, racial and ethnic health disparities, and the role mothers play in addressing obesity in their families.  The Task Force will work to develop recommended action steps for public and private sector decision makers who help shape the environments in which we live and work.

“National Women’s Health Week provides the perfect platform to kick off this conversation and address one of the most pressing issues of our day,” said Ferguson.  “This unique collaboration of organizations will allow us to explore this issue from a variety of angles and help forge a path forward.”  

About Overweight and Obesity in Women

Rising obesity rates across the nation have led to worsening health outcomes and increasing inequities in health[1] — 72 million American adults are now considered obese[2] and more than one-third of women are obese.  There are large racial and ethnic disparities in the prevalence of obesity among women, with Black and Hispanic women much more likely to be obese than White women.  In 2007-08, nearly 50 percent of non-Hispanic black women and 43 percent of Hispanic women over the age of 20 were obese, compared to 33 percent of non-Hispanic white women.[3]  Additionally, economists have identified obesity as a major driver of health care utilization and spending and a contributor to escalating health care costs.  In fact, a recent study published in the journal, Health Affairs found that obesity accounts for 9.1 percent of annual health care spending in the United States–nearly $147 billion dollars a year.[4] 

[1] Trust for America’s Health. (2009). F as in fat: how obesity policies are failing America. Washington, D.C.: Jeffrey Levi et al.  

[2] Ogden C.L., Carroll M.D., McDowell M.A., Flegal K.M. (2007). Obesity among adults in the United States— no change since 2003–2004. NCHS data brief no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

[3] Flegal K.M., Carroll M.D., Ogden C.L., Curtin L.R. (2010). Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2008. JAMA, 303, 235-241.

[4] Finkelstein E.A., Trogdon J.G., Cohen J.W., Dietz W. (2009) Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Affairs, 28, w822-w831.