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Obesity and excess weight are serious medical issues that can result in diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Despite the severity of associated medical issues, obesity had not been considered to be a disease. However, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently recognized obesity officially as a disease.
Many hope that this official recognition will spark greater awareness and more intervention on the part of physicians. Hopefully, physicians, other healthcare providers and the general public will also become more aware of the prominent role health psychologists play in helping people change behaviors, make healthier decisions and improve their overall well-being. Without behavior change on the part of patients, medical interventions likely will have only modest impact.
The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments.
In making the decision, delegates at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago overrode a recommendation against doing so by a committee that had studied the matter.
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, said in a statement. She suggested the new definition would help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity.
To some extent, the question of whether obesity is a disease or not is a semantic one, since there is not even a universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a disease. And the A.M.A.’s decision has no legal authority.
Still, some doctors and obesity advocates said that having the nation’s largest physician group make the declaration would focus more attention on obesity. And it could help improve reimbursement for obesity drugs, surgery and counseling.
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