AMA recognizes obesity as a disease

The American Medical Association Tuesday voted to define obesity as a disease, making it a medical condition requiring treatment that should be covered by insurance.

Obesity affects more than a third of adults and 17 percent of children nationwide. The AMA took its vote during its annual meeting after debating whether the action would do more to help patients get treatment or further stigmatize them, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," said Patrice Harris, M.D, an AMA board member, in the announcement. "The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity."

Physicians are now professionally obligated to diagnose and treat obesity, a move that should help encourage doctors to raise concerns about weight with obese patients. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found fewer than half of people with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more said their physician had talked to them about their weight. Researchers suspected physicians declined to raise weight issues for fear of offending their patients.

The AMA also voted Tuesday on several new policies on emerging issues in public health and science, including:

  • Opposing discrimination based on an individual's genetic information
  • Supporting public access to genetic data
  • Recommending traditional compounding pharmacies be subject to state board of pharmacy oversight
  • Opposing the FDA's lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men
  • Supporting HIV treatment as prevention

To learn more:
- read the AMA announcement
- check out the LA Times story