As of June 19, the American Medical Association, the country’s largest physician group, decided to now call obesity a disease instead of a condition, or a disorder previously. And this is not just semantics.
Per the CDC estimates, 36% of American adults are obese, number projected to possibly rise up to 50% by 2040.
Obesity qualifies a range of weights greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height and that also have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
Three types of major implications can be expected from this new definition for obesity, so far labeled a condition, or a disorder:
- Active treatment and tailored treatment methods- There will be more of an awareness on the part of physicians and more of an imperative to treat. Obesity does require a range of medical interventions because once a person is obese, their fat cells function differently, affecting the entire body and influencing hormonal function as well as signaling pathways in the brain. The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes by particularly working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, often linked to obesity.
- Active Prevention- For people who are just overweight and those who are not but are living in an environment that has potential for an unhealthy lifestyle, there will now be an awareness and an incentive for intervention, from that early stage, before the disease settles down.
- Coverage by insurance companies- It is expected to improve by opening up a wider range of treatment options for obese patients who may also have related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers and disabilities.
For physicians, it is always a subtle balancing act to suggest lifestyle and diet changes to a patient with weight “issues” without being rude, so this new classification might well be the reason they needed to feel more comfortable intruding as part of preventive care…
Credit photo: TobyotterFlickr
* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?
On a personal patient level, there might be another benefit to this change: minimizing the stigma that currently comes with obesity and the idea that obese people are to blame for their condition by eating too much or exercising too little. Some patients have no poor diet choices to be blamed for and yet suffer the condition for other medical reasons.
- Do you know obese people who are suffering from it yet lack the medical push to try and revert it?
- From a prevention perspective, do you consider this change mostly semantics or do you think it is a big push for doctors to actively work at preventing overweight patients from joining the obese ranks?
- From a treatment perspective, do you think more coverage from insurance companies would lead to a more active care for conditions typically linked to obesity?
Let us know…