Obesity has featured heavily in the media for several years, adopting many definitions, from it being a subtle “health problem”, to a dramatic “epidemic” or “major health risk”.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has recently officially classified obesity as a “disease”, mimicking the World Health Organisation and National Institutes of Health definition. It’s hoped this change will promote media publicity and in turn create impetus for further action. With more than a third of Americans overweight, it seems that this “disease” has reached epic proportions with a big chunk of the population seemingly ill.
Why is obesity now seen as a disease
Being overweight is no doubt a risk that can lead to debilitating illnesses, not least diabetes and cardiovascular problems. However, according to the American Medical Association the main decision to brand obesity itself as a disease is to banish the public opinion of it being solely “a consequence of a chosen lifestyle”.
In its plea to maintain its disease status the association compared obesity to lung cancer upholding that it is equivalent to “suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes.”
Impact of the “disease”
Although the AMA’s definition has no legal grounding, this declaration issued by one of the most authoritative medical groups in America will hopefully promote different ways of tackling obesity. Experts hope this new definition will lead to more patients getting access to non-surgical treatments, an increase in funding for research, and to an eventual decrease in the number of people classed as obese.
With the United States, United Kingdom and Mexico being the top 3 obese nations with obesity rates up to 30 percent, this “disease” could slowly become a “pandemic” in the media eye. If it is not solely a consequence of a chosen lifestyle does this mean this newly branded disease should be treated by therapy and public health campaigns or further surgical interventions, or, a combination of both?