By Fred Upton |
Last week, I went to bed a relatively healthy fat woman. Imagine my surprise the next day to learn that the American Medical Association, against the advice of the Council on Science and Public Health, declared obesity a disease. Overnight, I transformed from being fat, but healthy, to a diseased woman? I beg to differ! What would motivate the AMA to make a decision that goes against science? Could it be greed? Could it be political pressure?
Individuals of high body weight are already less inclined to seek medical attention because of the discrimination we face. Declaring us diseased without regard to our actual health is not likely to improve our health. My fear: how is this going to impact my relationship with my physician? Can I be forced to accept "treatment" (such as dieting or weight loss surgery) I don't want?
Many physicians believe that obese patients overconsume fast food and sugary beverages; I have not consumed either in many years! Some think fat people have weak character and could lose weight if we simply tried. Their weight bias goes beyond stigmatization to dislike and negativity. Many physicians feel that they have received insufficient or no training to address or examine fat patients and are frustrated with the lack of resources available to them.
Some predict that the AMA decision will improve the doctor/patient relationship, but since when have negative attitudes and bias disappeared as quickly as obesity was declared a disease?
Insurance companies will be required to pay for treatment of obesity under the Affordable Care Act where, at present, not all treatments (such as weight loss surgeries) are covered by all insurance plans. We will likely see an influx of recommendations for bariatric surgeries as a way to cure the disease of obesity and put more money in the pockets of surgeons, who recommended this change.
This change will increase insurance costs to businesses and, as always, those costs will be passed on to fat employees. In some cases, fat employees are already forced to pay larger healthcare premiums than their thin counterparts.
Declaring obesity a disease will increase the sale of weight loss drugs, plans and procedures. The weight cycling industry will enjoy huge profits, since there is no permanent cure for obesity. Declaring obesity a disease will only strength the cycle of stigmatization, discrimination and greed.
About Peggy Howell Public Relations Director for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
Hank Cardello Director of the Hudson Institute's Obesity Solutions Initiative
Joe Nadglowski President and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition
Ardis D. Hoven President of the American Medical Association