Understanding Obesity: The Glass Is 64% Full

Medscape tells us that 64 percent of physicians believe obesity is a disease. For nurses, the number is a bit smaller – 54%. But believe it or not, this looks like progress to us. More healthcare professionals are coming around. More of them are finally understanding obesity as a disease.

Shifting Opinions

Five years ago, the American Medical Association called the question. At its annual meeting, it resolved that obesity is indeed a complex chronic disease. The decision was controversial. On the opposing side, we had blamers and shamers saying “no way.”

For example, Cardiologist Robert Doroghazi wrote in 2014 that doctors should tell their patients:

You weigh too much because you eat too much. Your health and your weight are your responsibility.

Simple problem. Simple solution. He wrote this in the American Journal of Medicine. Consistent with that attitude in 2014, only 24 percent of healthcare professionals told us they think of obesity as a medical problem.

For different reasons, fat acceptance advocates don’t like thinking of obesity as a disease. They say “obesity is not the health risk it’s been reported to be.” They set up a straw man definition for obesity – it’s all about weight – and knock it down.

Bias Remains a Problem

Regardless of any progress, bias remains a problem. Just look at some of the comments on Medscape. One internist wrote:

So using the car rather than walking is a disease. Eating thousands of calories more per day than you need is a disease. Refusing to delay gratification or to avoid laziness is a disease.

Attitudes like that explain why people living with obesity have miserable healthcare experiences all too often.

So, yes. It looks like more health professionals are understanding obesity as a disease. But no, it’s not OK that 36 percent of physicians still don’t get it. We’re ready for more progress.

Click here and here for more from Medscape.

Vatten, photograph © Björn Engqvist / flickr

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October 20, 2018

3 Responses to “Understanding Obesity: The Glass Is 64% Full”

  1. October 20, 2018 at 7:49 am, Allen Browne said:

    Sigh! Is the glass half full or half empty? Either way we have a lot of work to do. Charge on!


  2. October 21, 2018 at 11:18 pm, Michael said:

    So, applying the same logic… edema is a simple fluid imbalance that should be treated by telling people to drink less and urinate more.

    • October 21, 2018 at 11:45 pm, Ted said:

      Good one, Michael!