Obesity Classified As A Disease
In just this past month, a majority of delegates (I’m surprised it wasn’t unanimous) in the A.M.A. voted to tag obesity as a disease. “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, said in a statement. She believes this new determination will help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are clearly linked to obesity.
Not all who voted were in agreement, however; and the A.M.A. has no legal authority. Additionally, the waters are further muddied by the absence of a universally agreed upon definition of what actually constitutes a disease. Regardless of these controversies, there are doctors and obesity advocates who believe having the nation’s largest physician group come forth with this declaration will bring a greater focus to the growing problem of obesity. If it helps from an insurance standpoint to improve reimbursement for drugs, surgery and counseling this decision could have a positive impact.
Obesity A.M.A. Conclusion
As the controversies continued, the A.M.A.’s Council on Science and Public Health concluded that obesity should not be considered a disease. Among their reasons is the opinion that a B.M.I., the measure most commonly used to define obesity, is believed to be simplistic and flawed and because there are no specific symptoms associated with obesity. It’s more of a risk factor that leads to other conditions, rather than a disease in its own right.
After all was said and done, the delegates rejected the Council’s conclusion and the resolution was voted in, arguing that obesity is a “multimetabolic and hormonal state” that leads to negative outcomes such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. “The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes,” the resolution said.
Opinions will always differ on such global subjects, but those of us who are true advocates can take heart that any discussion which keeps the topic of obesity in the forefront, will help in the long run. Hearing contrasting opinions and causing us all to think about the solutions are key players in moving our social consciousness forward. As a practicing bariatric doctor, I knew obesity was a disease a long time ago. It’s about time!
To eliminating obesity, your great health and happiness, -Dr. Sass