Until recently, obesity was viewed as a consequence of an increasingly plugged-in, sedentary culture, the proliferation of over-processed and fast foods, genetic factors, and perhaps environmental factors. It was also seen as a precursor for various chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer. But a recent decision by the American Medical Association (AMA) has now designated obesity a disease, prompting vigorous debate on whether the change will be beneficial or harmful to patients.
The logic behind the AMA’s decision was to formally acknowledge that obesity requires medical treatment and prevention. By recognizing obesity as a disease, the organization believes doctors will be more effective in diagnosing, treating, and preventing the disease, and that the government and private sector will begin to invest more money into research for new treatments. They also hope the decision will stop employers from discriminating against the obese and pressure insurance companies to cover obesity treatments. While the AMA has no official say in legislation or other policies that affect patients, they’re a highly respected and influential group that will at the very least have an impact on the way doctors view and treat their obese patients.
While the AMA’s intention was to improve outcomes for the one-third of Americans who are obese, some worry that there will be negative repercussions. Some detractors of the AMA’s decision believe the change will only serve to further stigmatize the overweight and obese, labeling them as “diseased. ” Others feel that obese patients will become reliant on medicine to fix a problem they should have the capacity to fix themselves with healthy lifestyle changes. Finally, some point out that the body mass index (BMI) scale – the measure that’s used by doctors to determine whether a patient is a healthy weight – is too flawed because of its inability to take muscle mass into account, and that obesity is not necessarily an indication of poor health.
What do you think about the AMA’s decision to classify obesity as a disease? Share your thoughts below.
Sources: ama-assn.org and today.com