Obesity Recognized As A Disease By The American Medical Association

The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a decision that could persuade physicians to pay more attention to the condition and encourage more insurers to pay for obesity-related treatments.

“Acknowledging obesity as a disease will help reshape the way the medical community approaches this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Alexander Abkin, a board-certified bariatric surgeon, said in a statement. He suggested the new definition would help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity.

“Classifying obesity as a disease will reduce weight bias,” said Dr. Ethan Lazarus, AMA HOD Delegate for the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP), who spoke in favor of the policy during the full HOD meeting earlier today.  “It means that medical students and residents will receive training in what obesity is and in the best treatment approaches.  It means that the medical community will have incentive to research and develop new and better prevention and treatment strategies.  But most importantly, it communicates to individuals affected by obesity that this is a chronic disease, not a problem of personal responsibility,” added Lazarus.

“Similar to many other medical conditions, obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease, requiring a multidisciplinary treatment approach. This approach must encompass the best standards of care, both in terms of the treatments chosen, and the care coordination and clinical environment in which they are delivered. Because of the complex nature of obesity and its variety of impacts on both physical and mental health, effective treatment requires the coordinated services of providers from several disciplines and professions (both physician and non-physician) within both of these treatment areas,” said AACE President Dr. Mechanick. “Adoption of this policy position by the AMA will help advocates in the obesity community address a number of key hurdles to individuals receiving critical medically necessary obesity treatment services.”

“The passage of this new policy reinforces the science behind obesity prevention and treatment, stated Ted Kyle, Chair of The Obesity Society’s Advocacy Committee. “Obesity is a complex condition with numerous causes, many of which are largely beyond an individual’s control. The disease is a driver of much suffering, ill health and early mortality. People affected are too often subjected to enormous social stigma and discrimination. Recognition of obesity as a disease can help to ensure more resources are dedicated to needed research, prevention and treatment We hope that it will encourage healthcare professionals to recognize obesity treatment as a needed and respected vocation, and also reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by the millions affected.” added Kyle.

“The AMA joins a number of leading organizations that have previously made this classification, including the National Institutes of Health (1998), the Social Security Administration (1999), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (2004), The Obesity Society (2008) and the American Association for Clinical Endocrinology (2012),” added Dr. Jaime Ponce, President of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

“We are at a tipping point. The scientific consensus and the mountain of evidence that have been built around the disease of obesity and its treatment cannot be ignored,” added John Morton, MD, ASMBS Secretary-Treasurer, Access Chair and Associate Professor of Surgery at Stanford University. “Now patient access to proven treatments needs to improve so scientific consensus is aligned with coverage policy.”

AACE is grateful for the support of so many other members of the House of Medicine who actively spoke out in favor of this policy, including the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, American College of Cardiology, American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Society of Reproductive Medicine, American Urological Association, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, The Endocrine Society, American Society of Anesthesiologists, American College of Gastroenterology, Texas Medical Association, Connecticut Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Society of Thoracic Surgeons and Great Lakes Section Council (comprised of the state medical societies from Ohio, Illinois, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana) and the Western Mountain Delegation (comprised of Medical Societies from Colorado, Nevada and idaho),” stated Dr. Mechanick with AACE, which sponsored and coordinated support for the resolution during the entire HOD process.

Read the full story on asmbs.org.

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