Obesity now declared a disease by American Medical Association

The American Medical Association has voted to declare obesity a disease – a move that the nation's leading physicians hope will help patients get the treatment they need.

Under the new classification, 78 million Americans and 12 million children are now considered to have a medical condition that requires treatment. The AMA debated the issue, trying to decide whether calling obesity a disease would help people make changes or further victimize this population.

"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," said Dr. Patrice Harris, an AMA board member.

Putting responsibility on doctors

The new designation essentially makes doctors responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, which frees them up to speak openly about weight concerns with patients. The LA Times reports that more than half of obese patients are never even told by a doctor that they should lose weight.

And while the AMA has previously referred to obesity as an "urgent chronic condition" or a "complex disorder," the new classification means that obesity is no longer just a precursor for more serious problems – it's a critical condition in and of itself.

"As things stand now, primary care physicians tend to look at obesity as a behavior problem," said Dr. Rexford Ahima of University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. "This will force primary care physicians to address it, even if we don't have a cure for it."

Medicare currently covers the cost of "intensive behavioral therapy" for overweight or obese patients, but this type of care under private insurers tends to vary.

Source: LA Times

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