AMA Categorizes Obesity as a Disease
Obesity affects millions of people within the global community and causes preventable health complications that could result in premature deaths. Recent campaigns hoping to curb obesity involve promoting a healthier diet and encouraging more exercise. Despite these efforts, obesity continues to be a growing problem. Not only does obesity afflict the health of the individual, it also can hurt work productivity as well as negatively impacting healthcare. Now, in another attempt to fight against obesity, the American Medical Association decided this past Tuesday to categorize obesity as a disease.
At the end of a debate discussing the effects of defining obesity as a disease, the country's physicians concluded that the definition would benefit people more than it would harm. This new declaration of obesity as a disease means that 78 million adults and 12 million children who are obese within the U.S. now have a medical condition that should be treated. The AMA's House of Delegates hope that this classification would get people the help they need to combat obesity.
"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," an AMA board member, Dr. Patrice Harris said according to LA Times.
After Tuesday's decision, doctors and physicians will now have to discuss obesity and weight loss tactics more diligently with their overweight or obese patients. They should also provide weight loss programs and monitor the weight loss better. On top of that, health insurance companies are now pressured to cover a wider range of services that tie in with obesity. For example, insurance companies might have to consider reimbursing physicians for the extended time spent discussing obesity risks and weight loss tactics with patients that have a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. The federal health care program, Medicare, currently provides some insurance coverage for obese adults who need intensive behavioral therapy, such as bariatric surgery.
"As things stand now, primary care physicians tend to look at obesity as a behavior problem," commented Dr. Rexford Ahima from the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. "This will force primary care physicians to address it, even if we don't have a cure for it."
Whether or not this definition will help with the fight against the obesity epidemic relies heavily on how doctors and insurance companies respond.