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editorial

The AMA defines obesity: A disease, and an epidemic

Despite reaching epidemic proportions, obesity has been wandering in the wilderness of medical lexicon. In recent years, it has routinely been described as a “health risk factor,” or a public health “problem,” “challenge” or “threat.” With so many factors playing into it and so many debates as to which factors play the greatest role in putting on the pounds, obesity up to now has escaped a defining description of what it is: A disease.

Last week, the American Medical Association officially classified obesity as disease, and the designation will do more than clarify the wording of medical textbooks: It will encourage doctors to have conversations with patients at risk of obesity, and provide impetus for health insurers to cover both those conversations and subsequent weight-loss interventions. This need not add costs to the health care system, since obesity is highly implicated in so many other chronic and fatal diseases, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease.

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