The 7 Worst Reasons for Ignoring Obesity as a Disease

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Morgan Downey has published a brilliant examination of flawed logic for ignoring obesity as a disease. These rationalizations are surfacing in response to the recent AMA decision that it is a disease. We are presenting a synopsis here for your convenience, but we encourage you to read his full exploration of the subject.

1. Calling obesity a disease will increase stigma. Honestly, how much worse can it get? Those with bias against people with obesity don’t need to read an AMA position paper to find their prejudice.

2. People with obesity will give up personal responsibility and give up on losing weight. The fact is, when people give up on trying to lose weight, it’s because they have tried so hard, for so long, and with so little success that they get discouraged. How will a diagnosis change this? If your dentist tells you that you have periodontal disease, do you stop brushing and flossing? Mostly, this objection is just prejudice, thinly disguised.

3. It’s all about money and prescriptions for new obesity drugs. Except for a relative handful of obesity medicine specialists, most doctors are hardly chomping at the the bit to treat obesity. When the day comes that doctors routinely treat obesity and can get paid for it, they will have earned their pay. It’s a difficult condition to treat.

4. The AMA decision is ok, but it leaves out (insert your cause here)! This objection comes from people who are not clinicians, feeling miffed that their cause — the food industry, built environment, soda, etc — might not get enough attention. It’s a big world and there’s plenty of attention to go around. There’s nothing wrong with helping individuals improve their health.

5. The AMA overruled their own expert committee. Yes and it’s a good thing they did. One of the main points of the committee report is that they couldn’t find a really good definition of what a disease is. Can you imagine the AMA declaring that something is not a disease because they are not sure how to define a disease?

6. Obesity can’t be a disease because it’s preventable. Huh? Heart disease is preventable. Diabetes is preventable. Cancer is preventable.

7. Health insurance will have to start paying for treatment. We wish. Health plans have dragged their feet for years and have made it clear that they will continue doing so. Things might improve slowly, but don’t count on a parting of the sea.

Click here to read more from Morgan Downey.

Afterwards Tom and Eric weren’t exactly sure at which point during their discussion the elephant had entered the room. Photograph © David Blackwell / flickr.

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