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Should the American Medical Association Have Classified Obesity as a Disease?

Should the American Medical Association Have Classified Obesity as a Disease?

The American Medical Association – the largest organization of physicians in the United States – this month formally recognized obesity as a disease. "The purpose of the policy is to advance obesity treatment and prevention," wrote AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven. "It issues a call for a paradigm shift in the way the medical community tackles this complicated issue so that we can reduce the number of Americans suffering from the effects of heart disease, diabetes, disability and other potentially life-changing health conditions."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American adults are obese. The CDC estimates that obesity also affects 17 percent of children, "triple the rate from just one generation ago." An estimate from the nonprofit RTI International says that about 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030 if obesity trends continue.

Dr. Lou Aronne, an obesity expert, told CBS News that the AMA's move will "have a tremendous impact on legislation in Washington [and] with insurance companies," as insurance policies now "generally exclude obesity treatment." While Medicare removed language saying obesity is not a disease from its coverage manual in 2004, Medicare Part D will still not pay for weight loss drugs.

But not everyone is thrilled with the AMA's move. Linda Bacon, a nutritionist at the University of California at Davis, said, "the AMA just determined that some people are sick based on how they look. What's next? Will they pronounce being black as a disease because there are higher rates of cardiovascular disease in black communities?" Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical correspondent for ABC News, meanwhile, downplayed the whole debate: "I think it matters little whether we call obesity a disease, a condition or a disorder. We are already talking about the obesity epidemic. It matters less what we call it than what we do to prevent it."

Was the American Medical Association right to call obesity a disease? Here is the Debate Club's take:


The Arguments

#1
112 Pts
People Can Be Obese But Healthy

No – People Can Be Obese But Healthy

Abigail Saguy Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Sociology at UCLA

#2
75 Pts
How I Went From Fat and Healthy to Diseased Overnight

No – How I Went From Fat and Healthy to Diseased Overnight

Peggy Howell Public Relations Director for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance

#3
-15 Pts
Calling Obesity a Disease Decreases Incentives to Eat Healthier

No – Calling Obesity a Disease Decreases Incentives to Eat Healthier

Hank Cardello Director of the Hudson Institute's Obesity Solutions Initiative

#4
-29 Pts
Call Obesity What It Is: a Disease

Yes – Call Obesity What It Is: a Disease

Ted Kyle Advocacy Chair of The Obesity Society.

#5
-35 Pts
Like Alcoholism and Mental Illness, Obesity is a Disease

Yes – Like Alcoholism and Mental Illness, Obesity is a Disease

Joe Nadglowski President and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition

#6
-38 Pts
Recognizing Obesity as a Disease Will Enable Better Treatment

Yes – Recognizing Obesity as a Disease Will Enable Better Treatment

Ardis D. Hoven President of the American Medical Association

#7
-41 Pts
Calling Obesity a Disease Helps Us Become a Healthier Country

Yes – Calling Obesity a Disease Helps Us Become a Healthier Country

Ron Kind , Tom Carper , Lisa Murkowski , Bill Cassidy Sponsors of a bipartisan, bicameral bill taking new steps in the fight against obesity


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