How obesity plagues Black New Yorkers – New York Daily News – New York Daily News

For nearly two decades, I have stood at the pulpit, looking out on the vibrant and resilient people of New York. I’ve witnessed my community in their highest moments of joy and their lowest moments suffering. Today, I see a deadly disease spreading rapidly and covertly among my congregation, among communities across New York, and across the country. Obesity is threatening our prosperity and I’m praying we can turn the tide.
Nearly one in three Americans and more than 4.7 million New Yorkers are living with overweight or obesity. But Black and Brown people are bearing the brunt: Nearly half of Black Americans and 44.8% of Hispanic Americans are living with obesity. New York is no exception — Black New Yorkers have the highest rate of obesity compared with their white and Hispanic counterparts. With more than 200 serious conditions linked to obesity, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. This silent killer is among the most dire health threats to communities of color nationwide.
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In the late 2000s, I saw HIV/AIDS rob countless Black and Brown Americans of their lives far too early. I refuse to let the same thing happen today with obesity, which is why I’m preaching to our elected leaders and imploring them to take action now. Just like I took to the podium then, I’m doing so again as a voice for Empire Baptist Missionary Convention of New York, Inc., which includes nine regions and 500 churches in predominantly racial minority communities, as well as for the Black and Brown communities nationwide in need of help.
It’s not under debate whether obesity is a complex and treatable disease. In 2013, the American Medical Association formally recognized obesity as a disease requiring treatment and prevention efforts. Since then, the AMA has also recognized that racial and ethnic disparities exist in the prevalence of obesity, as well as diet-related diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
Yet despite consensus from our top medical experts, policymakers continue to let outdated bias and stigma stop them from taking real action to address this life-threatening disease. Obesity is the cause of death for nearly one out of five adults, and without the right policy interventions, half of Americans will have obesity in 2030.
Our own Mayor Adams has seen this firsthand. After receiving a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, Adams was able to reverse his ailment in six months through weight loss. He admitted he hadn’t thought of diabetes as a deadly condition, but that his experience brought to light just how destructive these chronic diseases can be. After losing 30 pounds and getting his blood glucose levels back to normal through a plant-based diet, he’s hoping to help empower more people to take control of their health and save their own lives.
While losing weight through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise may help some, these interventions do not work for everyone. There are a growing number of treatment options for people living with obesity that include a continuum of interventions such as intensive counseling and behavioral services, safe and effective anti-obesity medications and bariatric surgery. The reality is that even when successful, lifestyle intervention only leads to 2-4% weight reduction, and treatment with anti-obesity medications has been clinically-proven to lead to meaningful weight loss of up to 15%.
Despite these treatment options, Medicare, which is anticipating an influx of seniors of color, falls particularly short on its lack of coverage of FDA-approved anti-obesity medications and narrow coverage for intensive behavioral therapy for obesity. Addressing the rapidly rising rates of obesity will require our policymakers to commit to prevention and education, but also ensure affordable access to treatment. There’s no time to wait — our elected officials need to act now to help New Yorkers access the care they deserve and help stop more preventable deaths at the hands of obesity.
Empire recently sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to advocate for full access to Medicare-eligible individuals to the full spectrum of obesity care, including anti-obesity medicines. We’re also calling directly on Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Adriano Espaillat, and the rest of the New York congressional delegation to urge Congress to address this major health equity crisis playing out across New York and across the country.
We’ll do what it takes to ensure that our elected officials understand the complexities of the disease of obesity and the need to ensure full obesity care access for those who need help managing this chronic disease. I’m hopeful that those in power hear our call to end suffering, and work with us to ensure all people have access to the healthy and prosperous lives they deserve.
Washington, a reverend, is president of Empire Baptist Missionary Convention in Harlem.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News

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