Guest Blog: Taking on the Obesity Epidemic

Eva Chalas, MD

Most women in the US struggle and are frustrated with weight control. Obesity rates are at an all-time high not just for adults, but now also for children. The clear nationwide progression in weight gain despite accompanying growth in the weight-loss industry underscores the need for physicians to get more actively involved. It is absolutely vital that we equip ourselves with the tools and knowledge to effectively reach patients who are overweight or obese.

A body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. The health hazards of high BMI are well known and include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Less known is the fact that obese women are also at a far greater risk for numerous types of cancer, including esophageal, pancreatic, colorectal, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, ovarian, and renal.

It is estimated that more than 60% of adults are now overweight and obese. Unfortunately, there are indications the situation could get even worse. A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health reveals that based on current trends, most Americans could be obese within the next two decades.

The cost to society in dollars must also be considered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2008 alone, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. All of this is sobering news—but news that must be considered as we work together to help our obese patients find success through a healthier lifestyle.

Women rely on us for guidance, and ob-gyns are in an ideal position to help educate and direct women toward a healthier lifestyle. I am happy to be working with ACOG colleagues from across the country on a soon-to-be-launched initiative addressing women and obesity. Our goal is to provide ACOG members with educational and clinical information on the impact of obesity in our field, along with useful tools to share with patients so we can address this national epidemic.

Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, is chair of ACOG District II (New York). She is director of clinical cancer services, vice-chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and chief in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Winthrop-University Hospital. Additionally, Dr. Chalas serves as a professor at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

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