Earlier this summer the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest physician organization, categorized obesity as a disease. According to AMA, “obesity rates have doubled among adults in the last 20 years and tripled among children in a single generation”. Ardis D. Hoven MD and president of the AMA wrote in an editorial that “recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way that the medical community tackles this complex health issue. It will spur new interventions and treatments for patients and encourage a greater dialog between patients and their doctors about which behavioral, medicinal or surgical options might be right for them”.
The timing of their announcement could not have been better because on August 15th a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that deaths from obesity had been vastly underestimated. “There was more than a tripling of the previous estimate, obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe. ” according the study author, Ryan Masters, Robert Wood Foundation Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The recognition that the consequences of obesity are even greater than previously thought along with the AMA’s distinction of obesity as a disease, should according the Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent, raise awareness, improve prevention and treatment and reduce the stigma associated with it. Dr. Ethan Lazarus agrees saying that “treating obesity as a disease may pave the way for insurance coverage for lifestyle intervention.”