Access to Care starts with seeing obesity as a chronic disease“Is obesity a disease?”

Some say yes, others say no. For years, people have disagreed about obesity and its causes. However, the answer to this question affects what options exist to help patients with their weight. It also affects how much funding goes to research and healthcare.

One thing most of us can agree on, though, is that obesity has serious health impacts. It is connected to more than 50 other serious health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers
  • Depression and anxiety

Seeing Obesity as a Disease

So, is obesity a disease? YES! Science and history both agree. In 2013, the American Medical Association made a public statement that started to change how we see obesity:

“The American Medical Association recognizes obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.” – AMA, 2013

What does this mean? Science says obesity is a disease. It is not a punishment for overeating, laziness or a lack of self-control. It is a serious and lifelong condition, even if someone manages to lose weight. In most cases, obesity gets worse with time.

When weight is lost, it comes back easily. The body fights weight-loss with every step. Most of the time, weight gain is actually greater than before. Excess weight puts strain on the body, yet no one simple “cause” is to blame. This is why we need more research on obesity and treatment approaches.

Factors that Influence Obesity:

  • Environment
  • Learned behaviors
  • Biology
  • Genetics
  • For more information on obesity’s causes, CLICK HERE.

Why We Need the Word “Disease”

It’s crucial that we continue to see obesity as a disease. This will affect efforts in treatment and prevention, as well as how a patient receives help for their weight. All healthcare providers must understand obesity for what it is, not a character flaw. In many cases, diet and exercise aren’t enough to help a patient who has struggled with their weight for a long time.

Referring to obesity as a disease also influences other major groups of people: health insurance companies, employers, the media, loved ones and more. It shapes our view of obesity and challenges us to think twice about our personal opinions. When we accept that obesity is a disease, we:

  • Understand that obesity is caused by many factors
  • Accept that obesity doesn’t have a “one size fits all” solution
  • Help patients realize they alone are not to blame for their weight
  • Encourage more obesity research and education
  • Reduce weight stigma and poor treatment due to weight
  • Make it easier for patients to get help

One Word Can Change a Lot

Patients with obesity often face many barriers in trying to get healthcare:

  • Proven treatment options that aren’t covered by insurance
  • Health centers that don’t have appropriate tools and resources
  • Weight bias and stigma
  • Lack of available physicians trained in obesity medicine

These barriers add up and make healthcare hard to get. If a patient does not feel supported, they are more likely to cancel or delay important appointments. Obesity rates will continue to rise along with obesity-related conditions. We will continue to treat diabetes, heart disease, joint wear and tear, and other related conditions. However, if the root of a patient’s problems is obesity, they will not get better.

For the sake of our nation’s health, let’s agree that obesity is a disease. It is not a condition to detest or look down on, but a serious health matter that demands our attention.

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