Like Alcoholism and Mental Illness, Obesity is a Disease
Classifying obesity as a disease recognizes the complexity of the problem
June 27, 2013
Last week, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease. As president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, I, and the OAC, fully support the AMA's decision. Since its inception in 2005, the OAC has believed that obesity is a serious disease.
Today, more than 93 million Americans are impacted by obesity. Now, more than ever, we need to begin taking proactive measures to ensure these individuals are provided safe and effective treatment options.
If we look at other diseases, such as alcoholism or mental illness, we can easily see how these groups struggled before their illnesses were classified as a disease. Obesity has often been labeled with statements such as, "You should eat less and exercise more," or "It's your fault. Take some responsibility." But the "personal responsibility" argument for obesity is ineffective. There is personal responsibility in all aspects of life. For years, this same label was applied to alcoholism and drug addiction; however, today, we clearly take these issues very seriously and treat them as diseases.
Obesity is a serious disease and it is our hope that the recognition of the complexity of obesity will reduce the significant and often far-reaching bias and discrimination associated with it and also encourage increased availability and access to the treatments of obesity for those who desire them.
The OAC proudly supports the efforts of all our partners in the obesity community in working with the AMA to reach this decision. Moving forward, it will be essential for all groups to continue working together and to raise awareness of obesity as a disease.