The American Medical Association – the largest organization of physicians in the United States – this month formally recognized obesity as a disease. "The purpose of the policy is to advance obesity treatment and prevention," wrote AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven. "It issues a call for a paradigm shift in the way the medical community tackles this complicated issue so that we can reduce the number of Americans suffering from the effects of heart disease, diabetes, disability and other potentially life-changing health conditions."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than
one-third of American adults are obese. The CDC estimates that obesity
also affects 17 percent of children, "triple the rate from just one
generation ago." An estimate from the nonprofit RTI International says
that about 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030 if obesity trends continue.
Dr. Lou Aronne, an obesity expert, told CBS News that the AMA's move
will "have a tremendous impact on legislation in Washington [and] with
insurance companies," as insurance policies now "generally exclude obesity treatment." While Medicare removed language saying obesity is not a disease from its coverage manual in 2004, Medicare Part D will still not pay for weight loss drugs.
But not everyone is thrilled with the AMA's move. Linda Bacon, a
nutritionist at the University of California at Davis, said, "the AMA
just determined that some people are sick based on how they look. What's next?
(Click to read this article) Will they pronounce being black as a disease because there are higher
rates of cardiovascular disease in black communities?" Dr. Richard
Besser, chief health and medical correspondent for ABC News, meanwhile,
downplayed the whole debate: "I think it matters little whether we call
obesity a disease, a condition or a disorder. We are already talking
about the obesity epidemic. It matters less what we call it than what we do to prevent it."
Blog Topic Question:
Was the American Medical Association right to call obesity a disease or have we simply became obsessed with imagery in the United States so that we believe "oversized" individuals are an embarrassment?