First the American Medical Association weighed in at the beginning of summer and now it is thought that under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the once maligned stigma of obesity will get a fuller recognition as a disease. It has been reported that over 90 million Americans suffer from obesity. The Obesity Society defined obesity as disease way back in 2008, and now that the AMA and others have come out publicly defining obesity as such, it will help physicians diagnose the disease and encourage more insurance companies to pay for its treatment.
One In Three Americans
Obesity is defined as an accumulation of so much body fat that it has a negative impact on a person’s health. Those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above are considered obese. Obesity increases the risks for health problems like type 2 diabetes, depression, arthritis, heart disease, and strokes. The Center for Disease Control also reports that obesity costs the U.S. more than $150 billion a year. “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of AMA’s board, was quoted in a statement earlier this summer.
Stigma and Treatments
With the AMA pronouncement, doctors now have an obligation to talk with their obese patients. A recent study showed that over half of patients suffering from obesity have never been told they are overweight and need to trim their bulk by a doctor. Part of this reason had to due with insurance funders also not being willing to reimburse for such weight loss treatments. The widening encouragement in recognizing obesity as a disease should help more doctors proscribe medication and operations for those in need. Two new drugs battling Obesity, Qsymia and Belviq, were also recently approved by the FDA. These drugs however, are not without their own controversy.
Drawbacks and Greater Investments
All these recent pronouncements are not with out their drawbacks though, as defining obesity as a disease could imply that it is always treatable ailment. Though there are things the medical community can do to help, there is no absolute cure. This new attention on obesity could also make sufferers more self conscious about their condition. There is already quite a stigma attached being overweight and there is worry that this shift toward medical treatments could refocus attentions toward surgery and costly drugs, rather then on eating well and exercise. But as the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health was quoted in the LA Times, a more extensive recognition of obesity "could result in greater investments by government and the private sector to develop and reimburse obesity treatments."
Genetics, Calories,and Stress
Genetic history can play a large factor in obesity, as small differences in how people’s bodies store fat and use energy can affect their weight. Those that have a genetic susceptibility may gain weight no matter what they do. Other people become obese through simply consuming too many calories, leading a sedentary lifestyle, not sleeping enough, having certain hormone problems and suffering from too much stress.