Physicians voted overwhelmingly to label obesity as a disease that requires a range of interventions to advance treatment and prevention.
However, there was impassioned debate in the hours before the vote at the American Medical Association (AMA) 2013 Annual Meeting.
The physicians in favor of classifying obesity as a disease explained. “Obesity is a pathophysiologic disease. There is a treatment for this disease; it involves behavioral modifications, medications, and surgeons.” said Jonathan Leffert, MD, alternate delegate for Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. “The scientific evidence is overwhelming.”
However, all are not convinced. Some say that obesity does not meet the criteria for disease.
Russell Kridel, MD, incoming chair of the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSPH), feels that there is no debate about the importance and urgency of addressing the problem, but he doesn’t believe it qualifies as a disease. “It’s more like smoking. Smoking isn’t a disease. Smoking can cause disease such as lung cancer and emphysema in the same way that obesity can lead to diabetes and hypertension,” he explained. “We’re really talking nomenclature here, not philosophy.”
Some feel that since body mass index, an imperfect measure, is used to determine obesity, people who are otherwise healthy are being diagnosed as obese.
“Why should one third of Americans be diagnosed as having a disease if they aren’t necessarily sick?” they ask.
One Third of Americans!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.7% of Americans are obese. Obesity-related conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, are some of the leading causes of preventable death.
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