AMA Reverses Report — Obesity Is a Disease

At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association surprised most observers Tuesday and declared that obesity is a disease. Not some sort of vague problem. Not a bad choice. Not a lifestyle you can simply shed. Obesity is “a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.”

Tuesday’s decision reverses a report by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health that was convoluted and equivocal.

Why is this surprising? Well, the facts of the statement are unsurprising to anyone who’s serious about obesity. It’s been well understood that obesity is a chronic disease since the NIH, CDC, The Obesity Society (then known as NAASO), and others united behind guidelines for diagnosis and treatment back in 1998.

But many mainstream medical organizations, like AMA, have been reluctant to accept this obvious truth until now. If you can’t treat it, maybe it’s not a disease. If behaviors play a role, maybe it’s not a disease.

Whatever the thinking, the prior reluctance to address obesity as a disease put everyone affected by obesity in a bind. Because if it’s not a disease, then we don’t need innovative research or new treatments. If it’s not a disease, health plans need not pay for treatment. If it’s not a disease, there’s no need for doctors to deal with it.

If it’s not a disease, we can just blame the people who have it and leave it at that.

No more.

Click here to read the resolution (page 78, resolution 420), click here to read more in Forbes, click here to read more in USA Today, click here to read more from Marketplace, and click here to read more in the New York Times.

Navy Pier Fireworks, photograph © Out of Chicago / flickr

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