In Controversial Vote, AMA Says Obesity is a Disease:
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
In Controversial Vote, AMA Says Obesity is a Disease
A MedPageToday story by David Pittman reports the vote -- approved by roughly 60% of the AMA's full House -- goes against the recommendation of its Council on Science and Public Health, which issued a report earlier this week saying that calling obesity a disease would be problematic. The resolution was backed by delegates from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American
Academy of Family Physicians, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the
American Society of Bariatric Physicians. The council struggled with a definition of obesity, and questioned why people who are overweight but not otherwise unhealthy should be diagnosed with a disease. Supporters argued the designation of disease would send an urgent message to the public and physicians that obesity can't be ignored.
A Los Angeles Times story by Melissa Healy and Anna Gorman deals with the cost of obesity. The story reports treatment of such obesity-related illnesses as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers drives up the nation's medical bill by more than $150 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Projected increases in the obesity rate could boost that figure by an additional $550 billion over the next 20 years, a recent Duke University study concluded. The AMA majority argued that more widespread recognition of obesity as a disease could result in greater private and public effort to develop obesity treatments.
For one doctor's view, read Suzanne Koven, MD, at Boston.Com. In her blog, she suggests the problem is ambivalence about conditions that have a behavioral component. In the last few years the question of whether certain behaviors are diseases or disorders--drug use and alcoholism, as well as hoarding,gambling, and Internet overuse (which the American Psychiatric Association now lists as disorders or potential disorders)--has come up repeatedly. We like to think we can control our behaviors, and everyone knows someone who has given up self-destructive behaviors. She says many will see the AMA's designation of obesity as a disease as an encouragement of "victim mentality"--an absolving of personal responsibility. But the causes of obesity are complex, and include genetics, stress, the food supply, medications, and other factors. If self-discipline alone cured obesity, she suggests, people clearly disciplined in other areas of life wouldn't be overweight.