You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

editorial

The AMA defines obesity: A disease, and an epidemic

Continue reading below

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.

The AMA wants to end the common perception — even among many doctors — that the condition is merely “a consequence of a chosen lifestyle.” In its resolution, the organization said blaming the victim for this complex disease has become the equivalent of “suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes.” The AMA’s resolution has no legal authority, but the declaration by one of the nation’s most authoritative medical groups casts the nation’s health woes in vivid and stark terms. Suddenly, by the AMA’s new standards, a third of America is officially ill. Any other disease that widespread would surely receive the medical attention it deserves.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.