The American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease this week. This is an important change… because the term “disease” in the managed care world means that that prevention and treatment is more medically necessary, justifying reimbursement for necessary interventions.
If obesity isn’t a disease then I don’t know what is. Obesity has gone from being a public health nuisance to a public health disaster in the last 20 years. In Arizona, the percentage of obese adults has nearly doubled in the last 15 years- from about 13% in 1995 to more than 25% in 2010. It’s overwhelming the country both in health care costs and productivity. We spend about $150B annually on health care costs related to obesity… and it increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes leads to devastating health problems including blindness, the loss of limbs and an early death.
As a public health system, we’ve got to start pulling folks out at the top of the waterfall rather than fishing them out at the bottom. While the change by the AMA is a positive step forward, some doctors might need the nudge of calling this a disease so that they’ll actually put together a treatment and prevention management plan together for their patients. This is where our work becomes even more important.
Reducing obesity is a Winnable Battle both nationally and in Arizona. We have lots of resources to help you and your family eat healthier meals and become more active. Check out the Arizona Nutrition Network’s Champions for Change for simple ways to eat better. Find more ideas for healthy eating and active living at ChooseMyPlate.gov, where you can sign up for healthy recipes that are emailed every week.