Thursday, June 27, 2013
AMA Classifies Obesity as a Disease
At a recent meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA), they made the recommendation that obesity is a disease. They sited the decision to do so was to increase the amount of time physicians speak to patients about this condition and may increase the likelihood insurance companies will pay for treatments. What they argued "was obesity is a "multimetabolic and hormonal disease state" that can lead to Type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases." (NY Times)
When the AMA labeled obesity as a disease, it was made against the recommendation of a committee who had studied the matter for over a year. According to the NY Times, "The council said that obesity should not be considered a disease mainly because of the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed."
Two of the reasons the AMA chose to label obesity a disease was to reduce the stigma of being obese and it does fit some of the current medical criteria of a disease. Two reasons sited for not recommending this decision were that there are no specific symptoms and it is more a risk factor for other diseases than being a disease itself.
So, what do you think about obesity being labeled a disease? It's an interesting question. On the one hand, as a gal with a BMI of 29.2 making me overweight, I like the idea that the AMA is taking a stand that obesity needs immediate attention from both the medical world (i.e. physicians) and the pharmaceutical world. While I do not like using a pill to solve problems when other methods are available, the fact that making obesity a medical condition means it will be taken seriously. I know I've never had a physician talk to me about my weight since I was a little kid. If taking this stand causes physicians to actually talk to patients about their weight, their habits, their history then woot! woot! I'm all for it! It needs to be done.
Personally, I don't think it's a disease. I think it's a reaction. I do not mean this in terms of weight gain caused by medications or medical conditions, that's a whole different situation and should be handled accordingly. I mean obesity is caused by our history, a reaction to our environment or our emotions. To me, it is a learned condition. There is a genetic component involved, but I believe how we are taught to regard food is how we relate to it as we age and take control of our eating habits. It is a crutch we use when things do not turn out the way we want.
What I like is the idea that if obesity is classified as a disease, it will become easier to get access to nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, health centers, gyms, weight loss centers, etc. These to me is the cure to fighting obesity. Giving people the knowledge about what to eat and how to exercise. Giving people the tools to be successful is what will combat obesity. Covering the cost of these services to an extent will encourage people to take advantage of them, rather than knowing how much they cost and foregoing them because they can't afford to pay.
Currently, most health insurance companies would rather (poorly) treat you for medical conditions brought on by obesity than allow you to educate yourself on how to eat healthy and workout to avoid diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. It makes no sense to me. We know how to treat obesity, but rather than treat it we would rather ignore the underlying cause of much more dangerous and expensive diseases and treat what obesity causes. It frustrates me no end.
Maybe the categorizing obesity as a disease will bring about long-range solutions to this epidemic. More discussion between doctors and patients, as well as more coverage by health care companies can only help decrease the number of people who are overweight and obese. You have my vote of support AMA.
What do you think? Should obesity be labeled a disease?