The American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted a new policy this Tuesday that declares obesity as a chronic disease. According to an AMA statement, obesity is now a disease “requiring a range of medical interventions to advance treatment and prevention.”
Obesity for adults is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI is calculated as way to measure body fat based on individual’s height and weight. Being obese increases an individual’s risk for developing many other serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, and stroke. In fact, obesity has been linked to almost every chronic disease in some way.
AMA’s decision comes at a perfect time since statistics now estimate that by 2030 42% of Americans will be obese. Currently, nearly 30% of American adults are considered obese, and the problem is now increasingly prevalent in kids as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the U.S. obesity rate has increased almost 50% between 1997 and 2012.
Experts in obesity epidemic and physicians had struggled for years to have obesity recognized as a disease knowing that it deserved proper medical attention and insurance coverage to tackle the problem just as other diseases. However, previously AMA considered obesity only a major public health concern and had not defined it as a disease; therefore, there was no insurance coverage to help individuals trying to lose weight.
The hopes are that recognizing obesity as a disease will help increase public awareness to tackle this epidemic. Obesity-related health care expenses cost Americans billions of dollars each year, preventing and treating obesity before it leads to more serious conditions could help combat these costs.
This is perhaps the biggest policy change on weight management so far. Yet, some argue that defining obesity as a disease could cause overweight individuals higher insurance premiums and affect their employment.
Good news is that Medicare beneficiaries are already being offered obesity treatment options. Medicare has started covering costs for nutrition and obesity counseling to help improve behavioral changes for those with BMI of 30 or greater.
At our office we are now offering a nutrition counseling program that covers nutrition basics as we help you get started on your wellness journey to better health. We have a program designed to provide you with all the tools and resources you need to transform your life. Call our office today at (818) 842-1410 for more information.