United States - The country's largest association of physicians-the American Medical Association (AMA)--voted this week to classify obesity as "a disease requiring a range of medical intervention." The decision could yield policy changes on prevention and intervention of obesity and also could mean more potential funding for research about the newly-classified disease.
Obesity affects one out of every three American adults, according to the AMA. The AMA formerly classified obesity as a "public health problem." Many doctors argue obesity's new disease classification will allow them to use a disease basis, instead of a lifestyle condition basis, in addressing people's obesity-related health concerns.
AMA Dr. Patrice Harris said in a statement, "Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans. The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity."
In an interview with CBS News, 33-year-old nurse Dana Neeman said, "Obviously, [obesity] is not at all a lifestyle, if I've tried and tried and tried to lose weight and was unsuccessful...There's something predisposed inside of me genetically that obviously plays a part."
Neeman said she lost 100 pounds after weight loss surgery. She said she would like to lose another hundred. The AMA's new classification of obesity could allow insurance companies to pay for weight loss medical procedures.
Dr. Shawn Garber with the New York Bariatric Group told CBS News, "Now with the AMA decision, insurance companies will cover weight loss surgery. Maybe insurance companies will start covering nutritionists, counseling and medical weight loss programs."
Obesity is determined using a person's body mass index, which is calculated based on height and weight. A person with a BMI score of 30 or higher is considered obese. The health condition has been linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, liver disease, stroke, sleep apnea, breathing problems, osteoarthritis, infertility and numerous cancers.
Samuel Klein, the director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told USA Today, "The American Medical Association's recognition that obesity is a disease carries a lot of clout. The most important aspect of the AMA decision is that the AMA is a respected representative of American medicine. Their opinion can influence policy makers who are in a position to do more to support interventions and research to prevent and treat obesity."
Medical costs associated with obesity cost the U.S. almost $150 billion each year.