The view on obesity is slowly changing, but there are still many myths about the disease that all contribute to creating barriers for proper treatment.

“Losing weight is easy – just eat less and exercise more. If you are obese then you must be lazy and stupid, obesity is your own fault.”

All of the above are statements and myths that everyone likely will have either heard or uttered about obesity, says Joe Nadglowski, the leader of US-based patient organisation Obesity Action Coalition.

“These are common myths that people with or without obesity may hear – or repeat – daily without thinking more about it. Even many individuals with obesity believe this to be the truth about their disease and thus they also represent some of the barriers that need to be overcome to improve the health of people with obesity.”

Addressing the barriers of obesity

To help bring down these barriers, Novo Nordisk has supported the ACTION study, the first of its kind to investigate barriers to effective obesity management from the perspective of people with obesity, healthcare professionals and employers in the US, says director of Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center and ACTION steering committee member, Dr. Lee Kaplan.

“Obesity must be understood as a progressive disease requiring both self-management and multidisciplinary support to optimise care and treatment outcomes,” says Dr. Lee Kaplan.

“The value of the ACTION study is that it clearly identifies the challenges that must be overcome, and underscores the critical need to work together on solutions that help people with obesity successfully manage their weight.”


Recognising obesity as a disease

One of the goals of Novo Nordisk’s engagement in obesity is to have the condition broadly recognised as a disease in its own right, says Jacob Sten Petersen, head of Diabetes and Obesity research.

“This could change the conversation that patients have with doctors, so patients are not blamed for being obese, and interventions could start earlier, before obesity begins to cause other diseases such as hypertension.”

The view on obesity as a real disease is slowly changing, and the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association now recognise obesity as a chronic disease requiring long-term management. But Jacob Sten Petersen admits it will take some time before people with obesity receive the medical care and support they need to improve their health.

“Today, our understanding of obesity is at the same level of maturity as type 2 diabetes was two decades ago, and just like for type 2 diabetes there is definitely no one-size-fits-all when it comes to living with or treating obesity,” he says.