Is Obesity a Disease?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Doctors deal with obesity and its consequences every day. It's an increasing concern for individual patients and as a matter of public health for the entire population.

This week, the American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease. According to a statement by Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans.”

But not all physicians agree on whether this new categorization makes sense.

Dr. Stephen Cook is a pediatrician and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He is in favor the AMA classifying obesity as a disease.

But Dr. Davis Liu is a practicing, board certified family physician and author of the book “The Thrifty Patient: Vital Insider Tips for Saving Money and Staying Healthy.” He is opposed to the AMA classifying obesity as a disease.

Doctors Cook and Liu join us today to discuss how useful this disease designation is, and whether the change is simplifying a complicated problem.


Dr. Stephen R. Cook and Dr. Davis Liu

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [3]

unkerjay from Puget Sound, WA

I think the below comment says it well and well expresses my take on
the discussion. There's a LOT of talk about personal responsibility and
not enough about the myriad of other influencing factors. It seems to me
to be born of a desire to oversimplify the problem to silver bullet the
solution and in the process not have a full or honest discussion about
the sources and solutions of the problem.


Dr Lawrence D. Frank Transportation & Health Prof. at UBC

"In order for this decision to be effective I think you were getting at the
question around what's an individual's responsibility and what's society's and our responsibility for governance and other structures.

I am concerned about obesigenic environments and I'm concerned mostly about the fact that I don't think we're going to have much traction in reducing obesity by making it a disease unless we change the way we build the places where we live work and play.

That's my concern at this point.

And I don't see any shift of any significant nature that will really change how easy it is to get to healthy vs unhealthy food or to be active in our daily lives through transportation, or have better access to parks and open space. We're not talking about the solutions. We're talking about the problem.

I'd like us to talk about the strategy as part of.

So, my concern is obesity is a condition. I want to focus on the behaviors that lead to it and lead away from it."

HuffPost Live - Obesity from Epidemic to Disease, June 20th, 2013

Jun. 22 2013 12:36 AM

I guess if Obesity is a disease, then so is ingorance, apathy, stupidity and a whole host of other issues where people make bad life choices and lack the will and responsibility to properly address them.

Jun. 20 2013 11:25 AM
Haley from Detroit, MI

I don't have the energy to comment personally, so I will let Lesley Kinzel speak for me.

"Although I would prefer to believe in the American Medical Association’s good intentions, this choice just doesn’t make sense. It is unlikely to change our public health -- as determined by the AMA’s own council on the subject -- and it certainly isn’t going to radically alter the overwhelming personal-responsibility-laden cultural associations with fatness, as people will still judge fat folks for knowingly afflicting themselves with a so-called disease. All it will do is further support the existing stigma against obesity, a stigma that is not helpful to the people it affects and is often flat-out harmful.

Oh, and it will sell a lot more expensive and only mildly effective weight loss drugs. Which may well be the point."

Jun. 20 2013 09:24 AM

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