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Commentary: Obesity hits pandemic levels in communities of color

Obesity is a chronic disease and should be treated as such, Dr. Garfield Clunie, president of the National Medical Association, says. (NMA)

As a physician, I am thankful that my colleagues and public health collaborators took a laser-focused approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the intention to save as many lives as possible. It is within this context that I consider with curiosity why our nation’s urgency to bend the curve on obesity pales in comparison to our dedication to eradicating COVID-19.

For three decades now, obesity has been proven to be a complex, chronic disease and not a character flaw, choice or lack of discipline, as some areas of society might have us believe. It has cost the lives of our loved ones, with a particular set of consequences for communities of color.

Nearly half of non-Hispanic Black adults and Hispanic adults live with obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The public health community now asserts that reducing obesity rates years ago could have very well saved thousands of lives when COVID-19 struck, including more than 20,000 Black Americans. Obesity’s gravity remains unaddressed and largely untreated in Black, Latinx and other historically disadvantaged communities.

Dr. Garfield Clunie

Dr. Garfield Clunie is president of the National Medical Association. Based in Silver Spring, the NMA is the nation’s oldest and largest scientific and professional organization representing African American physicians and patients.

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