Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Obesity's Consequences for Society

As bariatric surgeons, we sometimes can't help but observe the controversies that occur over the obesity issue in America today. The subject of weight loss in Los Angeles and all across America seems to stay in the media day in and day out. While op-ed pieces such as this lament the lack of solutions to these problems, there are patients who have found their solution with the help of a skilled bariatric surgeon.

Scott W. Atlas of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a controversial op-ed piece today, pointing out some of the connections between smoking and obesity as health risks. I leave it to you to determine if the comparison is fair: 

He points out that smoking is stigmatized, and smokers themselves are socially ostracized in spite of the fact that they are making a personal decision. Perhaps consequently, rates of smoking in the U.S. have declined by 20 percent in the past 15 years alone, while the obesity rate has increased by 48 percent. Mr. Atlas seems to be of the opinion that weight loss is just as pressing an issue as smoking. Is this a fair conclusion to draw?

Furthermore, Mr. Atlas feels that obesity is not just a personal risk, since 5-10 percent of medical spending is obesity-related, and half of this amount is spent by Medicare and Medicaid, in other words, the taxpayers. He quotes an estimate of $550 billion over the next 20 decades if obesity could be curbed. 

He concludes that "Facilitating clinical trials and streamlining approval of innovative treatments are also important." Bariatric procedures such as sleeve gastrectomy, however, are already approved, and already achieving startling success.

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