In June 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a new policy that officially labels obesity as a disease, not just a risk factor for other disorders.
The question of whether obesity is a disease or not is complex, since there is no universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a disease. Although the AMA’s decision has no legal authority, doctors and obesity advocates believe that having the nation’s largest physician group make such a declaration will direct more attention on obesity.
The AMA’s goal is to improve the public’s focus on the problem, increase funding for future obesity research, and change how aggressively doctors treat obesity. Labeling obesity as a disease could also lead to payment for doctors who want to talk with their patients about nutrition and exercise – time that is not currently reimbursed by insurance plans.
Obesity-related health care expenses cost Americans between $147 billion to $210 billion per year. Preventing and treating obesity before it leads to more serious diseases could help combat these costs.