It’s estimated that 67% of the U.S. population is overweight. Of that 67%, over one-third is classified as obese, having a BMI of 30 or higher. The American Medical Association (AMA), the largest group of physicians in the country, recently made a very controversial decision to officially classify obesity as a disease. Up until this decision, obesity was considered a condition which affects nearly 90 million people in the U.S., and accounts for almost 250,000 deaths every year.
The debate over whether or not obesity should be classified a disease, grows along with the alarming rate of obesity in the United States. Proponents of the decision say that obesity is a disease because genetics, biological factors, and certain illnesses can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Proponents of the decision include: The World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
On the other side of the argument, opponents of the decision say that obesity cannot be considered a disease because it’s a result of a person’s chosen lifestyle, eating habits, and environment. Opponents of the decision include: The CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by not yet taking a position on whether or not obesity is a disease. The US House of Representatives in its October 29, 2009 health care bill, included obesity as a “behavioral risk factor” along with alcohol and drug use, tobacco, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and risky sex.
With the lack of consensus amongst government agencies and medical associations on whether or not obesity is a disease, advocacy groups continue to lobby for and against classifying obesity as such.
Proponents stress that declaring obesity disease would remove the social stigma associated with obesity, provide the same legal protections as other illnesses, and force medical professionals, insurers, and employers to treat it with the same degree of concern as other diseases.
Opponents argue that classifying obesity as a disease would scare overweight or obese people, who are healthy, into seeking unnecessary medical treatments, divert public funds to treat a preventable condition, and be discriminatory towards people who choose a different body type. They say that categorizing obesity as a disease would not address the underlying problems causing it, such as poverty, the prevalence of unhealthy processed foods, lack of public policies encouraging exercise, and other environmental factors.
What’s your position on labeling obesity? You can post your comments below on the Flexcin blog or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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