Obesity Disease Classification Will Help With Treatment, Docs Say

Marcia Frellick

July 10, 2013

In This Article

Introduction

When the American Medical Association (AMA) voted on June 18 at its annual meeting to classify obesity as a disease, it set off conversations nationwide on how this might affect doctors in a variety of specialties.

Physicians disagree on whether the ruling will change everyday practices and whether obesity fits the typical disease parameters, but all agree the decision has spotlighted the need for resources for a public health disaster that affects a third of the nation and costs the healthcare system $190 billion annually.

Robert Pretlow, MD, a Seattle pediatrician and child obesity expert, said that over time, the ruling will take away some of the stigma of obesity as a problem of willpower and put it on the level of asthma. It will be easier for pediatricians to approach parents in terms of treating a disease rather than telling them their child eats too much or doesn't exercise enough, he said.

The food industry may see restrictions in light of the distinction, he added: "Certain foods may actually represent addictive substances."

He hopes the ruling will lead to limits on the availability and advertising of foods that contribute to obesity. "If a third of our kids were experiencing asthma because of air pollution, we would take draconian measures," he said. "Why is childhood obesity different?"

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