The AMA (American Medical Association) decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease and suggested a large range of medical interventions to advance treatment. This choice was made at the groups annual meeting, held this year in Chicago.
Of course, obesity has been a known problem in the United States for decades now. Previously, the AMA considered obesity a "major public health problem." Scientifically, obese persons are roughly 35 pounds overweight, with the ideal body weight vs height calculated as a BMI. Roughly 1/3 of all US adults now qualify as obese and therefore, as diseased.
It is well known and documented in the scientific literature that obesity increases the risk of type II diabetes (the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in the US), heart disease and some forms of cancer. The AMA's position here is to try and thwart these chronic diseases by stopping them at their source, a la, the mouths of their patients. This doesnt take into consideration the enormous (pun intended) cost of obesity in the US. An average obese person costs the health care system $1,400 more per year to treat. And dialysis for renal failure due to diabetes is 100% paid for by the US taxpayer.
So, it is clear that obesity is a problem and steps need to be made to reverse the trend. However, is classifying obesity a disease the answer? A writer at Forbes does not think so. First, this now provides policy activists "a new blunt instrument to use against the food industry." The social media will literally, eat this up. Think of the press generated by Mayor Bloomburg's war on soda.
Personally, my problem with the label as a disease ignore the taboo subject of personal responsibility. Nobody is born obese. Parents make poor health choices for their children and teach them to pollute their bodies. This is learned activity. People with problems with impulsiveness and conscientiousness need to reexamine their health. Perhaps education is the issue as well; maybe in some communities the lettuce on a Big Mac counts as a vegetable. The AMA just gave a fried and greasy crutch to those who either don't care or those who struggle with food choices on a daily basis. How long before I can take a day off work because my obesity is acting up again? Is there any chance I can go on disability due to my obesity disease. With 1/3 of America now labelled as diseased, what are we to do?
The AMA is all too happy to have a larger disease population. Doctors can now bill for diagnosing obesity and counselling their patients. Extra testing and referrals to obesity specialists create more paperwork and more bills. But it won't result in more money. Obesity costs us dearly in both health and money. Labelling it a disease will not help.