Obesity is Now Officially a Disease!




—  has roughly the same association with chronic illness as 20 years of aging


—  is associated with a 36% increase in inpatient and outpatient healthcare spending


—  is associated with a 77% increase in medications


—  is the number two (2) cause of preventable death in the U.S!!!


(Source: The Effects of Obesity, Smoking, and Drinking on Medical Problems and Costs, Roland Sturm, Rand, 2002)
But until just recently, obesity was NOT considered a DISEASE.  In June of this year (2013), the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates voted to officially declare obesity a disease.  To quote AMA board member Dr. Patrice Harris, “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans”.  In the past, the AMA has referred to obesity as: (i) an urgent chronic condition; (ii) a major health concern; and (iii) a complex disorder.  Until the vote/declaration in June of this year (2013) however, it was NOT considered a disease, which had a multitude of ramifications.
The AMA’s declaration did much more than define 78 million American adults and 12 million children as actually having a diagnosable and potentially treatable medical condition.  The vote is certain to:
  • Encourage physicians to address obesity with their patients and get over possible discomfort about raising health concerns. (NOTE: studies have found that over half of obese patients have never been told by a medical professional that they need to lose weight.)
  • Incent healthcare providers to direct patients to weight-loss programs and monitor progress.
  • Pressure health insurance companies and self insured plans to reimburse healthcare providers for the task of identifying obesity, and discussing the health risks associated with the DISEASE.
  • Move the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has approved just two (2) new prescription weight-loss medications since 1999, to approve new obesity drugs, encouraging new drug development, and more widespread prescribing.
As a disease which affects almost 36% of adults and 12% of children in the U.S., it is certainly time to get even more focused and serious about its treatment.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), treatment of obesity related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease adds $150 billion a year to our nation’s healthcare bill.  It occurs to me that indentifying and treating this disease would have a tremendous return!