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News Release

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Michael Votta
Executive Director
TREO Foundation

Tipping Point for Obesity and Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery

Newberry, FL – May 18, 2022 — As the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) Foundation begins its 25th year, its work combatting obesity, increasing the scientific and public understanding of metabolic and bariatric surgery, and expanding access to one of the most underutilized treatments in medicine has never been more important or more urgently needed.

While obesity in America continues to reach new heights – 42.4% of U.S. adults — the number of individuals having surgery for the disease in any given year remains stubbornly low at less than 1% of the eligible population based on body mass index (BMI). Despite a mountain of evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of metabolic and bariatric surgery, clinical, research, economic, social, and policy barriers continue to unnecessarily deny or restrict access, and even consideration of this life-enhancing and lifesaving treatment for obesity.

The country may have reached a turning point, however, and those barriers may finally come tumbling down as the increasing dangers of obesity and the benefits of bariatric surgery become harder to ignore. Bariatric surgeons have reported a rise in the number of inquiries for surgery since the COVID-19 pandemic began as the risks of obesity took on new prominence when the disease was linked to severe outcomes from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death. What’s more, bariatric surgery was linked to protection against severe COVID-19 among individuals with obesity.

Tens of millions of Americans report they became more worried about obesity than ever, prompting an estimated 3 million of them to consider having bariatric surgery during the pandemic, according to a recent survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent research organization, and the ASMBS, with funding from the ASMBS Foundation. This is significant – given that only 256,000 people had weight-loss surgery in 2019, the latest estimates available.

The ASMBS Foundation believes COVID-19 — as devastating as it has been, and it’s not over yet — has created an unprecedented opportunity to turn consideration into action for the millions of people struggling with obesity and already thinking about having bariatric surgery. Through its support of grassroots advocacy, compelling research, and high-powered education, the ASMBS Foundation is hoping to turn its 25th anniversary into a watershed year that sees bariatric surgery become a solution for all who may benefit rather than the 1% it currently serves.

Metabolic/bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most effective and long-lasting treatment for severe obesity, resulting in significant weight loss and resolution or improvements in diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and many other obesity-related diseases. The safety profile of laparoscopic bariatric surgery is comparable to some of the safest and most commonly performed surgeries in the U.S., including gallbladder surgery, appendectomy, and knee replacement. Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for premature death around the world. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

The ASMBS Foundation shares a commitment with the more than 4,000 surgeons and integrated health members of the ASMBS to improve the care and treatment of people with obesity and related diseases. In consultation with the ASMBS, the ASMBS Foundation has awarded more than $2 million to efforts that may never have been funded otherwise, including basic science and clinical research into sleeve gastrectomy and its impact on heart failure, which became the basis for an NIH grant, and how primary care physicians make decisions about the treatment of severe obesity and bariatric surgery, to name a few.

The ASMBS Foundation, perhaps best known for its annual national awareness and fundraising event, the Walk from Obesity, also supports a range of professional development and education programs, policy briefings with state and federal legislative representatives and staff, and professional recognition and credentialing programs such as the LEAD Awards honoring leaders in metabolic and bariatric surgery, and the ASMBS Certified Bariatric Nurse (CBN) Program.

Member support is vital to the ASMBS Foundation — a strong foundation helps create an even stronger professional society and specialty. Please donate today so that, together with the ASMBS, we can take metabolic and bariatric to the next level and engage healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public in ways that expand access, increase understanding and inspire greater action on obesity, the most enduring public health threat facing the world. The ASMBS Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization. Donations are fully tax-deductible. Learn more at www.asmbsfoundation.org

ASMBS Foundation Highlights:

  • Awarded research and community grants for studies on obesity and COVID-19, metabolic surgery, the impact of bariatric surgery on systemic inflammation, and the oncologic effects of severe obesity.
  • Provided support for the ASMBS Certified Bariatric Nurse (CBN) Program, ASMBS Nutrition Guidelines Project, Edward Mason Professorship at the University of Iowa, and the free ASMBS Essentials of Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery App.
  • Ongoing coordination of the annual Walk from Obesity, a national fundraising event that engages local communities to bring greater attention to the disease of obesity and its treatment, particularly with metabolic and bariatric surgery.
  • Funding for a major public opinion survey on obesity and metabolic and bariatric surgery with ASMBS and NORC at the University of Chicago.

ASMBS Grants and Awards:

  • Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Dr. Ronald Clements Patient Safety & Quality Award
  • Master Educator Award
  • Excellence in Clinical Care Award
  • Excellence in Nutrition Award
  • Surgical Innovation Award
  • Distinguished Industry Partner Award
  • LEAD Awards

About ASMBS Foundation

The mission of the ASMBS Foundation is to raise funds for conducting research and education, increasing public and scientific awareness and understanding, and improving access to quality care and treatment of obesity and severe obesity. The ASMBS Foundation shares the vision of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) to improve the public health and well-being by lessening the burden of the disease of obesity and related diseases throughout the world. For more information, visit asmbsfoundation.org.