Obesity Recognized as a Disease by American Medical Association

Obesity Recognized as a Disease by American Medical AssociationThe American Medical Association (AMA), the largest association of physicians in the United States, has officially recognized obesity as a disease. This landmark decision was made at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago and may draw more attention to treating obesity and its related diseases.

Many people incorrectly believe that obesity is strictly caused by a lack of willpower. This decision from the AMA recognizes that obesity is about more than just eating too much and exercising too little, and that weight gain is often caused by factors that are out of our control. Obesity advocates hope that this decision will reduce the stigma of obesity and change the way our society addresses this complex, widespread problem, giving more people the help they need to lose weight.

What Makes Obesity a Disease?

Like many other diseases, obesity is a chronic, multifaceted condition that can get progressively worse with time. It has complex causes and contributors related to our biology, environment, society and culture. It can lead to numerous other medical conditions from diabetes to sleep apnea and seriously disable those who suffer from it. It is a problem that affects each person differently, and each person responds differently to treatment.

There is no universal definition for what constitutes a disease, but obesity does meet some of the medical criteria for a disease, like impairing bodily function. In fact, many other significant health groups like the World Health Organization and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have already recognized obesity as a disease.

How Will This Decision Help?

Though the AMA decision does not have any legal authority, decisions like these are often important to legislators who set and regulate medical policies. This means that the decision may focus more attention on obesity and encourage both lawmakers and doctors to take the condition more seriously. Hopefully, it will help more patients receive better care, and help us reduce the prevalence of an epidemic that has many consequences for our society.

Only time will show the effects of this decision, but it may result in benefits like:

  • Better training for medical professionals in the treatment of obesity
  • Reduction of the stigma attached to obesity by both physicians and the public
  • Better insurance reimbursement for weight loss medications and other forms of obesity treatment
  • More funding for research into preventing and treating obesity and obesity-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes

For now, the AMA’s decision is little more than semantics, but it may go a long way in helping our whole society understand two very important concepts: obesity is about more than just lifestyle and individual choice, and the one-third of Americans who suffer from obesity deserve help and treatment just like those who suffer from any other medical condition.