Morgan Downey Bio

Morgan Downey

Morgan Downey

Morgan Downey has been actively involved in the obesity field for 19 years. From 1997 to 2006, Mr. Downey was the executive director of the American Obesity Association (AOA). AOA was an educational and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting understanding of obesity and advocating public policies to combat the epidemic. During his tenure he organized the first conferences on obesity as a public policy issue, secured an Internal Revenue System Revenue Ruling that expenses for weight loss treatment were eligible for the medical deduction on individual taxes; convinced the Social Security Administration in 2000 to define obesity as a disease and continue it as a qualifying impairment for disability claims {see SSR 00-3p (Superseded)},  the IRS and Medicare (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) that obesity is a disease; pushed Surgeon General David Satcher to focus on obesity leading to his groundbreaking Surgeon General’s report; and helped to greatly expanded Medicare coverage of bariatric surgery. In 2003, he first proposed that calorie information be displayed on the front of packaged food, leading to efforts by the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration to develop front of package (FOP) labels.

From 2006 to 2008 he was the executive vice president of the Obesity Society, the medical and scientific society for obesity. While at the Obesity Society, Mr. Downey raised over a half million dollars in contributions to develop a program to develop a credential to recognize physicians specializing in the treatment of obesity and a program to enhance the Society’s work on childhood obesity. He was also instrumental in establishing a section of the Society dedicated to Health Services Research. He conducted a forum in 2007 “What Should the Next Administration Do About Obesity?” co-sponsored by the STOP Obesity Alliance and the National Journal. Nine presidential candidates (Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, McCain, Obama, and Governors Richardson, Romney and Mayor Giuliani) were represented as well as Peter Orszag, now President Obama’s director of the Congressional Budget Office, then director of the Congressional Budget Office. The discussions were moderated by Linda Douglass, then with National Journal and now director of communications for the White House health care reform efforts.

In 2008, Mr. Downey conducted similar forums at both the Democratic and Republican National Party Conventions. Participating in the forum at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado were Melody Barnes, now the White House director of Domestic Policy and Representative John Conyers, (D-MI), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. The Republican Forum, held in St. Paul, Minnesota was moderated by Lesley Stahl of CBS Sixty Minutes and featured former presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin and past Secretary of Health and Human Services. Due to these efforts, obesity was included for the first time in both party’s national platforms in 2008.

See Obesity – Obesity and the Political Process

In 1999, 2000 and 2001, Mr. Downey, at the American Obesity Association, conducted the first conferences on obesity as a public policy issue.

In 2000, the AOA conference was the first  in which representatives of the Presidential campaigns, Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, addressed obesity and a survey AOA carried out on the attitudes of both parents to their children’s weight. American Obesity Association – News

The first AOA conference in 1999 featured Surgeon General David Satcher, the first time a Surgeon General had directly addressed the obesity epidemic. American Obesity Association – AOA Conference

From 1988 to 1996, Mr. Downey led the National Coalition for Research on Neurological and Communicative Disorders (NCR). NCR successfully worked with the late Silvio Conte (R-MA) to pass the Congressional Resolution, signed by President George H.W. Bush, declaring the 1990s the “Decade of the Brain.” Subsequently, Mr. Downey represented or directed several professional and patient organizations and promoted neuroscience research in a variety of forums including conferences, workshops, newspaper supplements, and a science museum exhibit.

Mr. Downey was director of governmental and legal affairs for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional society for speech-language pathologists and audiologists from 1977 to 1988. Supervising a staff of 8, he worked to expand rights of persons with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. He successfully led efforts to include speech language pathology in Medicare, Medicaid, other federal programs. He was active in several amendments to PL 94-142, the nation’s law for special education for children with speech, language and hearing difficulties. He led successful efforts for requiring judicial review of Medicare Part B benefits. He represented ASHA during rule-making by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on hearing aid sales, specifically requiring a 30-trial period for all hearing aid purchases. He led efforts in support of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation on hearing protection in the workplace, and for the enactment of the federal Noise Control Act.

Before joining ASHA, Mr. Downey worked for John Gardner at Common Cause on reforms of campaign financing laws, lobby disclosure and open meetings. Before that, he worked for Ralph Nader in establishing the reforms of the presidential campaign financing system and lobbying for higher penalities for corporate crime.

He is currently consulting with several organizations on obesity issues including the Geisinger Obesity Institute, was on the Board of Directors of the Surgical Review Corporation which certified bariatric surgery centers of excellence and serves as the Policy Director of the STOP Obesity Alliance, part of George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, and is a member of the steering commiteee of the Coalition to Prevent DVT. In 2011, he became Chief  Health Policy Officer for Obesity PPM.


1. Downey, M, Still, C, Survey of Antiobesity Legislation: are these laws working? Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes, 2012;Oct, 19(5): 375-80.

2. Is there a path for approval of an antiobesity drug: what did the the Siutramine Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial find? Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2011 Oct; 18(5):321-7

3. Obesity and the Political Process, Editorial, Obesity, Nov. 2008;16(11):2391-2392.

4. Obesity as a Disease: A White Paper on Evidence and Arguments commissioned by the Council of the Obesity Society, Allison DB, Downey M, Atkinson RL, Billington, CJ, Bray GA, Eckel RH, Finkelstein EA, Jensen MD, Tremblay A. Obesity,  June 2008;16(6):1161-77, epub May 8, 2008.

5. “Expression of Bias against Obesity in Public Policy and its Remedies: Chapter, “Bias, Discrimination, Stigma, and Obesity, Kelly D. Brownell, Rebecca M. Puhl editors, Guilford Publications. 2005

6. “Future and Implications of Reimbursement For Obesity Treatment”, Stern JS, Kazaks A, Downey M. Journal Am Diet Assoc. 2005; 105: S104-S109.

7. “The Importance of Being Ernest”, w. Stern, JS, co-author, The Lancet, Dec. 2003; vol.362; s42-3.

8. “Insurance Coverage for Obesity Treatment”, Chapter in Evaluation and Management of Obesity, Daniel Bessesen, ed. 2002.

9. Comment: Policymakers Don’t Address Obesity, Health Affairs, 2002 May-June;21(3)284-5.

10.  “Results of Expert Meeting: Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease. Obesity as a Disease Entity”, Amer. Heart Journal 2001 (Dec); 142(6):1091-4.

11. “Legal Issues in Brain Science Advances”, Courts, Health Science and the Law, 1991 (Spring) 1(4) 471-83.

12. “Medicare Reimbursement of Nonphysician Health Care Practitioners, Chapter”, 1991 Health Law Handbook, Clark Boardman,

13.”New Issues in Brain Research”, Hoffheimer LS, Downey M, Health Syst Rev. 1991, Jan-Feb; 24(1)34, 36-7.

14. “Health Insurance Manual for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists”, ASHA 1984.

15. “Due Process and PL 94-142” Journal of American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn. April 1980

16. “Conduct of the due process hearing, Journal of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn, May 1980.

17. “Antitrust and Sunset Laws, Journal of American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn. Jan. 1979

18. “ASHA’s  Program for Third-Party Reimbursement” Journal of American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn. Sept. 1982.

19.”Laboratories or Puppets? The challenge of federal preemption of state legislation,” Food Drug Cosmetic L J, 34:334-69, Jl. 1979.

20. “Privileged Crime” Trial Magazine, Sept/Oct. 1973

21. “The Making of the President, 1972” Book Review, Trial Magazine, Jan/Feb 1974

22. “Parental attitudes about their children’s weight,” JE Viteri, M Downey, Obesity Research, Sept. 2001.

23. “The Washington Connection. Asha interviews Morgan Downey.” Asha, journal of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn Aug. 1981.

24.  “The doctor is in charge: how the ACA puts the employee’s physician in charge of the wellness program,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Jun. 2014.

25. “Response to Dr. Cawley,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, June 2014.


The Today Show, NBC, November 11, 2003, with Katie Couric, on obesity as a disease.


New York Times on American Medical Association decision recognizing obesity as a disease. June 19, 2013.

NPR Morning Edition Interview with Renee Montagne on the Affordable Care Act and employer wellness programs, Feb. 20, 2013

USA Today on IOM Recommendations:

December 15, 2011, The Joe Madison Show, Sirius Radio, on Medicare coverage of behavioral counseling.

NPR on the Medicare decision to cover intensive counseling of obesity in adults.

Philadelphia Inquirer:

Studies point to weight loss at the doctor’s office –

New York Times

F.D.A. Fails to Approve Contrave, a New Diet Pill –

Qnexa, a Diet Drug, Is Rejected by the F.D.A. –

Deletion Opens Medicare to Coverage for Obesity –

2 Approaches to the Nation’s Obesity Epidemic Coming Up for Review –

Study Says Overweight Adults Push Up Cost of Health Care –

With Food Line, Ali Makes Obesity an Opponent – New York Times

The New York Times > Business > Weight Loss Surgery May Soon Be Paid by Medicare

Can Healthier Foods Help the Bottom Line? – Companies Find Gains in Your Loss – Series –

Employers Focus on Weight As Workplace Health Issue –

Selling Dreams and Drugs – Series –

THE MARKETS – Market Place — Weight Watchers Meets Its Goals – Onetime Dud Becomes the Star Of an Uninspired Cast at Heinz –

Health and Money Issues Arise Over Who Pays for Weight Loss –

Weight-Loss Drug to Be Sold Over the Counter – New York Times

Deletion Opens Medicare to Coverage for Obesity –

Study Says Overweight Adults Push Up Cost of Health Care – New York Times

Can Healthier Foods Help the Bottom Line?; Companies Find Gains in Your Loss – New York Times

Washington Post

The Checkup – Judging Fat People

Obesity and health-care reform: Public vs. private responsibility – The Washington Post

Jennifer LaRue Huget – Research Shows That Some Excess Weight May Not Be Fatally Dangerous

Medicare Backs Obesity Surgery

Obese Patients Increase Need For Specialized Medical Care

Medicare Changes Policy on Obesity (

Airlines Should Calculate Prices By the Pound (

IRS Allows Weight-Loss Tax Deduction (


Is Obesity A Disease? (

Study Cites Pervasive Effects of Obesity in Children; Condition Affects Physical, Social and Emotional Activities; Parallel to Cancer Patients Noted

USA Today

Restaurants as obesity cops doesn’t sit well – – IRS allows tax deduction for doctor-approved weight-loss – Teletubbies help ‘telechubbies’ get fit

Obesity summit to seek ways to trim the fat ; Officials seek advice from researchers

Los Angeles Times

FDA shoots down another weight loss drug [Updated] – Los Angeles Times

National Perspective; Health; CDC’s Battle of the Bulge: Escalating Obesity in U.S.

Associated Press

The Sunday Gazette – Google News Archive Search – newspaper archive, clipping service – newspapers and other news sources

The Argus-Press – Google News Archive Search


Downey: A weight-loss plan for the new administration –

The Obesity Society Hails Republican Platform; Forum Set for Sept. 2 to Continue as Planned

Obesity Society Announces Policy Forums in Conjunction with National Conventions

Curbing Obesity Epidemic Key to Health Care Reform: Experts – US News and World Report

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. – Obesity Management – 3(1):6

The Post and Courier – Google News Archive Search

Obesity May Soon Become Top U.S. Killer, Officials Predict – Kansas City, Missouri News

IRS Has Tax Deduction for Weight Loss Efforts

: FEATURES: Shape Up! —

Girth control: a big fat failure

Losing pounds on the Net; E-dieting is proving popular but some say it’s just another diet fad

The Hour – Google News Archive Search

Philadelphia Inquirer: Search Results

US schools to be battleground in war on junk food – Telegraph

US states grossly underestimate levels of obesity – health – 26 April 2006 – New Scientist

Herald-Journal – Google News Archive Search

Gorging on holiday goodies a given for kids, but does it nurture bad habits?

The Deseret News – Google News Archive Search

Philadelphia Inquirer: Search Results

Eugene Register-Guard – Google News Archive Search



NewsLibrary Search Results

Pioneer Press: Search Results

NewsLibrary Search Results

Daily News – Google News Archive Search

The Spokesman-Review – Google News Archive Search

Airline charges fat passengers double

The Vindicator – Google News Archive Search

Herald-Journal – Google News Archive Search

IRS Has Tax Deduction for Weight Loss Efforts


First Read – Richardson addresses Obesity Society

Tax deductions allowed for weight loss – Health – Fitness – Diet and Fitness –

CSPAN Video Library

2004 House Committee Government Reform and Oversight

Combating Obesity – C-SPAN Video Library

2003 Washington Journal

Health Care Cost of Obesity – C-SPAN Video Library

1997 Federal Trade Commission

Weight Loss Products and Programs – C-SPAN Video Library