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June 19, 2013

AMA House of Delegates Adopts Policy to Recognize Obesity as a Disease

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DENVER (June 19, 2013)—The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) applauds the American Medical Association (AMA) for its decision on June 18 to adopt policy that recognizes obesity as a chronic disease state.

The AMA House Delegates (HOD) voted on a resolution to adopt a new policy recognizing obesity as a “disease requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.”

This decision followed testimonies both Tuesday and Sunday from OMA Delegate Dr. Ethan Lazarus (Denver), who is representing the Society at this week’s AMA 2013 Annual Meeting in Chicago. In this victory, Dr. Lazarus also received backing from his home state of Colorado and the Western Mountain States delegation.

“First, classifying obesity as a disease will reduce weight bias. It means that medical students and residents will receive training in what obesity is and in the best treatment approaches. It communicates that this is a chronic disease, not a problem of personal responsibility,” said Dr. Lazarus during an AMA reference committee hearing. “Second, recognizing obesity as a disease will improve health outcomes for millions of individuals.”

It is important to note that although AMA decisions do not have recognized legal implications, these policy decisions are often referenced by federal and state legislators and other decision makers when setting medical policy and health regulations.

With today’s AMA policy adoption, the implications for patients and the health care community may be far reaching. Possible changes include:

  • improved training in obesity at medical schools and residency programs,
  • reduced stigma of obesity by the public and physicians,
  • improved insurance benefits for obesity-specific treatment, and
  • increased research funding for both prevention and treatment strategies.