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Obesity is now officially a disease.
The American Medical Association has formally declared obesity as a disease, a move that effectively defined one third of adults and 17% of children in the United States as being sick.
The AMA's decision essentially makes diagnosis and treatment of obesity a physician's professional obligation. As such, it should encourage primary care physicians to get over their discomfort about raising weight concerns with obese patients. Studies have found that more than half of obese patients have never been told by a medical professional they need to lose weight — a result not only of some doctors' reluctance to offend but of their unwillingness to open a lengthy consultation for which they might not be reimbursed.
Past AMA documents have referred to obesity as an "urgent chronic condition," a "major health concern" and a "complex disorder." The vote now lifts obesity above the status of a health condition, disorder or marker for heightened risk of disease — as high cholesterol is for heart disease, for instance.
"As things stand now, primary care physicians tend to look at obesity as a behavior problem," said Dr. Rexford Ahima of University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. "This will force primary care physicians to address it, even if we don't have a cure for it."
The decision, which was voted for by the members of the AMA, was controversial - it overrode AMA's own committee who recommended against reclassifying obesity as a disease (it noted that many people with high BMI are actually quite healthy).
Would it lead to "medicalizing" obesity and lead to more reliance on drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes? Does this mean that you have a pre-existing medical condition that would lead to higher medical insurance costs or denial of coverage altogether?
What do you think? Did the AMA do the right thing?