WASHINGTON (WANE) The American Medical Association (AMA) now considers obesity a disease that requires medical intervention, treatments and preventative measures.
The resolution to consider obesity a disease was passed on Tuesday at the association's annual meeting.
"The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes," reads one of the final paragraphs of the resolution (courtesy NPR's posting of the full document).
The AMA hopes the reclassification will change how doctors treat patients; that they will treat obesity as a disease rather than a lifestyle choice or condition.
"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," said AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D. "The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity."
Dr. Dale Sloan of the Lutheran Bariatric Center said this could help with insurances providing coverage for surgeries.
"Having it recognized as a disease process would make it less likely, hopefully, that insurance companies is going to make a product that excludes bariatric surgery," he said.
This new position on obesity could have a "tremendous impact on [obesity] legislation in Washington [and] with insurance companies," Dr. Louis Aronne, an obesity specialist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, said on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday.
While the AMA's recognition of obesity as a disease is not legally binding, the decision by the largest association of physicians in the country could have far reaching implications.
"The American Medical Association's recognition that obesity is a disease carries a lot of clout," Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said to USA Today . "The most important aspect of the AMA decision is that the AMA is a respected representative of American medicine. Their opinion can influence policy makers who are in a position to do more to support interventions and research to prevent and treat obesity."
The National Institute of Health defines obesity as having a BMI of 30 or higher. People with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered to be a normal weight. The calculation (a ratio of height over weight) is the same for men and women.
The same day it decided to consider obesity a disease, the AMA also adopted the following policies:
- Opposition to Genetic Discrimination
- Support of Public Access to Genetic Data
- Pharmacy Compounding Safety
- Opposition to the Lifetime Ban on Blood Donations for Gay Men
- HIV Treatment as Prevention
- Banning Marketing/Sale of Energy Drinks to Kids
- Health Risks of Sitting
- Permitting Sunscreen in Schools
- Exam Room Computing & Patient-Physician Interactions
Some information from CBS News: Obesity now declared "disease," but risk for chronic illnesses was no secret
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