In the middle of global obesity epidemic, the American Medical Association voted on a new, official definition for it – now obesity is officially a disease. What was always seen as a lifestyle choice, will be now addressed and managed as a disease in the United States, a fact which will impact the healthcare policy, the regulations and the role of insurance companies.
The primary objective of the annual meeting of the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates in Chicago last week was to decide whether or not obesity should be defined as a disease. An earlier report by AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health couldn’t say if it is a medical condition or not, but it successfully pointed out all the benefits and drawbacks of such a definition. After voting, the delegates finally took a decision and now obesity, which was previously considered a major public health issue, is now officially a disease. It was a result of strong debates in several medical societies in the U.S., including the American College of Cardiology, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, and the American Urologic Association.
Until now, AMA has officially referred to obesity as a complex disorder and urgent chronic condition. Now, according to latest data, one-third of adults, or 78 million people, and 17 percent, or 12 million of U.S. children suffer from the brand new disease. This means all these people need medical treatment. According to studies, in most obese patients their excess weight has never been addressed. Doctors have never told their patients to lose weight, which at first sounds absurd, but in fact, there is a reason for it. First, such a suggestion is considered offensive in American culture, and second, there hasn’t been any support and reimbursement for obesity, no fully covered dedicated programs or medications. Until now. Doctors will be now not only able to, but also obligated to diagnose and treat higher body mass index.
Designating obesity as a disease will increase the country’s health spend, according to experts. It will also boost the creating of new prevention programs, especially in schools. On the other hand, new obesity medications will have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration which will increase the development of new drugs and maybe even alter the requirements for prescription drugs. As a whole, experts believe there will be a whole new wave of rules and regulations linked to health, foods and medications and the related industries. While some think there will be less discrimination, others say overweight people might face even worse attitude and social rejection. However, this is also seen as a wake-up call for other nations to address obesity in the long term on both local and more global scale.