AMA classifies obesity as a disease


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist Chris Shadrock

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on June 19, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 19 at 5:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Obesity affects one in three Americans. Health officials warn by the year 2030, 42 percent of Americans will be obese. Those statistics are among the reasons the American Medical Association has now officially classified obesity as a disease.

Tuesday's decision was not out of the blue. Those who've battled obesity and the doctors who treat it have long called for obesity to get the medical attention and insurance coverage that other conditions receive.

"I think I've tried every diet in the book," said Rebecca Posey, who knows what it's like to be obese.  Posey is 5'2." She's spent a good portion of her adult life in excess of 250 pounds.

"The primary impact that being obese had on my life was just the feeling of not being on control," said Posey. "I could feel myself becoming more and more unhealthy."

Posey opted for gastric bypass surgery in 2008, which helped her lose 105 pounds. Still she says she knows surgery isn't for everyone, and something needed to be done to help curb the obesity epidemic.

"We've seen it as a disease for many years," said Steve Fass, M.D, a bariatric surgeon at the Bariatric Center at St. David's Medical Center.  

Fass says he's encouraged by the AMA's decision.

"I think it may open the door to not only for research, but removing some of the stigma associated with obesity as simply a lifestyle choice," said Fass.  

Fass says numerous factors can result in a person becoming obese including metabolism, thyroid issues, high blood pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea.

"When you just treat those without treating the underlying cause or the extenuating factors that's related in those diseases, you're really not giving your best care to your patient," said Posey.

She's hoping Tuesday's decision by the AMA can open the doors for research aimed at finding the cause of obesity.

"And just sort of shift the focus to really treating this not as a personality flaw but as a true disease state," said Posey.

Statistics show the number of obese children and teens mirrors the adult population. About one in three are obese. It's another reason Fass says the AMA decision and future research are so important.

Click here for more information about the Bariatric Center at St. David's Medical Center.