Check Your Health | Stories - Physicians Group Labels Obesity a Disease
Wednesday, June 19 2013, 04:45 PM MDT
Physicians Group Labels Obesity a Disease
By Jacque Wilson
(CNN) -- One word could have a big impact on the way doctors treat obesity in the United States.

The American Medical Association has adopted a new policy that officially labels obesity as a disease "requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention," according to an AMA statement.

The physicians' group voted to approve the obesity policy, among others, on Tuesday during its annual meeting in Chicago.

The U.S. obesity rate increased almost 50% between 1997 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, nearly 30% of American adults are considered obese, and the problem is almost as prevalent in kids. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years, the CDC says.

Obesity for adults is defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher. BMI is a way to measure body fat based on your weight and height. (Calculate your BMI here)

Being obese increases your risk factor for developing many serious conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. In fact, obesity has been linked to almost every chronic disease in some way or another.

"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue," AMA board member Dr. Patrice Harris said in a statement.

Obesity has long been recognized as a disease by other groups, but this move by the AMA sends a strong signal to the medical community, said CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Some experts worry suddenly declaring one-third of Americans "ill" or "sick" will increase the desire for quick interventions or medications and discourage people from making the lifestyle changes known to combat obesity.

On the other hand, AMA's declaration could help increase funding for future obesity research. It could also lead to payment for doctors who want to simply talk to patients about nutrition or exercise -- time that's not currently reimbursed by insurance plans.

Identifying obesity as a disease may also help in reducing the stigma often associated with being overweight, said Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition.

"Obesity has been considered for a long time to be a failure of personal responsibility -- a simple problem of eating too much and exercising too little," he said. "But it's a complex disease... we're hoping attitudes will change."

Nadglowski thinks the AMA's support is also an important step in helping people gain access to obesity treatment. Most forms of insurance do not cover obesity alone. For instance, an obese patient cannot hire a nutritionist or a trainer and have it covered by his or her plan simply to lose weight.

"We do cover treatment connected with a co-morbidity," says Don McLeod, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "For example, if you have diabetes and obesity is aggravating the diabetes, we might cover obesity treatment as a way of treating the diabetes."

Obesity-related health care expenses cost Americans between $147 billion to $210 billion per year. Preventing and treating obesity before it leads to more serious diseases could help combat these costs, Nadglowski says.

AMA's decision comes at an interesting time. The Obesity Action Coalition has been working to introduce the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act in Congress.

The bill was re-introduced in the House on Wednesday and will be re-introduced in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, according to the office of Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, one of the measure's sponsors. A similar bill last year stalled in committee.

The bill would increase obesity treatment options for Medicare patients, expand the types of providers who can offer obesity counseling and take away some obesity medication limits.

Physicians Group Labels Obesity a Disease

Community Photos & Videos - Submit Your Photos Here

More ✔ Your Health Stories

Are You Prepared For An Emergency?
Primary Care Doctors Trained to Diagnose Mental Illness
Experts: Concussion Education is Important to High School Athletes
Researchers Hoping for a "Vaccine" Against Falls
Common School Injuries and how to Prevent them
Poll: Parents Uncomfortable With Youth Football
Garrett Harding, Huntsman Cancer Institute:
Farmers Market Will Match Food Stamp Benefits
A Call for Stronger Regulations on Electronic Cigarettes
Health Officials Investigating Outbreak of Illnesses
Doctors Recommend Delaying School Start Times
NAMI Utah Offers Free Resources to Educate About Mental Illness
First Human Case of West Nile Virus Reported in Utah
Acupuncture Used to Help Patients at Primary Children's Hospital
Enhanced fitness class free for seniors
Got Breakfast?
Hospital Network Hacked
Importance of Annual Exams for Children and Young Teens
Doctors Say Young Teens Should be vaccinated for HPV
Utah Awarded $1 Million to Prevent Prescription Drug Overdoses
Memory-Boosting Foods
Possible Ebola vaccine?
West Nile Virus Detected in Utah County
Hope for cancer patients without a bone marrow match
Healthy Lunches
Finding the right balance with snacks
Experts stress support system to fight substance abuse
Skin Cancer and Moles
Ride, Cancer Awareness Unites a Community
Keep Kids Safe This Holiday Weekend
"Urgent" Need for Blood Donations
Nationwide Fruit Recall
West Nile Virus Activity Detected in Utah
Experts: Now is the time to work on joint health
The therapeutic benefits of horses
IT Band Friction Syndrome
How Not to be Miserable While Being Active
Walking Further Could Win You a Free Gift Card
Health Hub app
Staying Hydrated in Summer Heat
Expect More Questions From Your Doctor
Check Your Health at the 2News Health Expo
Building Strength With the "Build Me Up" Program
Getting Your Life Back with Knee Replacement Surgery
New technology reduces radiation exposure
Fighting ADHD among women
Safe Hiking While in Southern Utah
Camp for Kids of All Abilities
Importance of sunscreen protection
Can Watching TV Lead to Premature Death?
Concussions and the Impact of New Laws
The Puuurrrfect Volunteer Opportunity
Program Gives Young Athletes a Competitive Edge
Physical therapy for joint replacement
Food Safety in the Summer Heat
ATV Safety Education and Information
Yes! There is Such a Thing as Exercising Too Much
Advocate Accepts Living with Bipolar Disorder
Staying Cool During the Summer Months
Surgery Can Help You Get Back On The Playing Field
Advertise with us!


Pay It Forward
Fresh Living
Family Matters
Road Trippin
Hooked On Utah

Advertise with us!