The Truth About The Obesity Action Coalition
The Ob*sity* Action Coalition (OAC) claims to be a non-profit advocacy group for higher-weight people. The truth from my perspective is that they are anything but.
I wrote about the OAC in 2014 when their priority had been lobbying the AMA to declare that “ob*sity” is a disease. Today their priority is the “Treat and Reduce Ob*sity Act” the goal of which is to expand Medicare coverage for weight loss interventions, including specifically expanding coverage for weight loss drugs.
These priorities make a lot more sense when you realize that the OAC is not an advocacy group for higher-weight people, but rather an organization that is predominantly funded by, and lobbies for the priorities of, the weight loss industry.
When I first wrote about the OAC the “Platinum” level of their Chairman’s Council (a distinction for those providing funding of $100,000 or more annually) included:
· Allergan – Manufacturers of the lap band
· American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric [weight loss] Surgery
· Covidien – “committed to better patient outcomes through bariatric surgery“
· Eisai – manufactures of the weight loss drug Belviq (now pulled from the market)
· Vivus – manufacturers of the weight loss drug Qysmia
All of these organizations stood to profit from the AMA’s declaration of being higher-weight as a disease (and the lobbying was successful, not only did the AMA declare living in a larger body to be a disease, but they blatantly ignored the findings of their own Committee on Science and Public Health - which had studied the matter for a year and recommended against it - in order to do the weight loss industry’s bidding.)
Rebranding simply existing in a larger body into a disease was a major step forward for the weight loss industry, but not the only step. The next big step for Big Pharma and weight loss surgery interests is insurance coverage for dangerous, expensive (and almost certain to fail) weight loss “treatments.”
And now the OAC’s “Platinum” level is down to one company – Novo Nordisk. A company that, having made a literal fortune price gouging on insulin, has promised their shareholders that their new weight loss drug, Wegovy, will make them billions. The rest of the sponsorship levels are still chock full of weight loss companies. They’ve also separated their Chairman’s Council from what they are calling “Corporate Partners”. Here Novo is again the top funder at “more than $500,000 annually” with Eli Lilly kicking in “more than $100,000” and the list goes on. I’ve included the lists below.
There is something else in common between the OAC of 2014 and today. At both times, they were involved in parallel campaigns that claimed to be about ending weight stigma, but were in fact about selling more weight loss interventions.
We’ve seen this before. It was a tactic used by Purdue Pharma and other pharma and medical device companies to sell opioids – they created non-profits like the American Pain Foundation that were billed as advocacy groups for pain patients (a legitimate group of patients who deserve advocacy and treatment,) but were, in fact, funded by and acting in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry. The work of these non-profits influenced legitimate government and healthcare organizations to do the pharma companies’ bidding, including influencing the behavior of doctors and other healthcare providers with their patients, creating an explosion in pain diagnoses and opioid prescriptions.
This is exactly what Novo Nordisk and other weight loss companies want to do, so it’s not surprising that they are taking a page or two from the Purdue Pharma Oxycontin playbook.
Fool us once, a lot of people are harmed and killed in the service of pharma industry profits. Fool us twice, even more lives are irreparably harmed and lost. That is why it is critical that we not allow the OAC to get away with this - that we not allow them and their spokespeople to claim to be fighting weight stigma when they are really shilling for the weight loss industry.
When you see “Ob*sity Action Coalition” you should think “Novo Nordisk and their weight loss industry buddies” and treat them accordingly, with extreme suspicion.
Current “Corporate Partners”
Note: the date represents how long they’ve been an “OAC Partner”
Platinum (contributing more than $500,000 annually)
Novo Nordisk (2013)
Gold (more than $100,000 annually)
Eli Lilly (2020)
Silver (more than $50,000 annually)
Boehringer Ingelheim (2010)
Bronze (more than $25,000 annually)
American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (2005)
Currax pharmaceuticals (2020)
Patron(more than $10,000 annually)
Bariatric Advantage Nutritional Products (2008)
The Ob*sity Society (2012)
Wondr Health (2017)
Weight Watchers aka WW (2015)
Current chairman’s council funders:
Platinum (donates more than 100k annually to OAC's general operating efforts)
Gold: between 50k and $99,999 annually
American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery
Eli Lilly and Company
Silver $10k-$49,999 annually
Bronze $5k-$9,999 annually
Geisinger Healthcare System
Rocky Mountain Associated Physicians
Patron $1k-$4,999 annually
Bariatric Medicine Institute
Gainesville Medical Ob*sity Specialty Clinic
New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery
The Better Weight Center
The Ob*sity Society
Weight & Life
MD Woman's Hospital
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*Note on language: I use “fat” as a neutral descriptor as used by the fat activist community, I use “ob*se” and “overw*ight” to acknowledge that these are terms that were created to medicalize and pathologize fat bodies, with roots in racism and specifically anti-Blackness. Please read Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body – the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia and Da’Shaun Harrison’s Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness for more on this.