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June 15, 2022

American Medical Association Takes Action on Obesity

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The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates moved to elevate the disease of obesity for immediate action by the AMA Board.

Initially envisioned as a task force, Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) president and AMA delegate Ethan Lazarus, MD, FOMA, along with OMA Trustee and AMA alternate delegate Anthony Auriemma, MD, JD, FOMA, introduced a resolution for consideration at the AMA’s annual 2022 calling on the AMA to form an obesity taskforce to complement the AMA Obesity Caucus Dr. Lazarus formed 7 years ago.

Dr. Lazarus provided powerful testimony, stating that “Obesity robs individuals of 6 – 8 years of their lifespan, and 330,000 Americans die from obesity each year. This means that since our AMA’s recognition of obesity as a disease, over 3,000,000 Americans have died from it.

However, their deaths are typically attributed to something else – something caused by obesity. The patient died from COVID-19 – but had they not had obesity, they might have survived. The patient died of diabetes complications – but had they not had obesity, they might not have died. The patient died of pancreatic cancer – but had they not had obesity, they might not have died.”

He further testified that, “All 3 Million lost to obesity shared two things in common – first, in spite of strong medical evidence to the contrary, they died believing that the obesity was their own fault, caused solely by poor food choices and inadequate physical activity. Second, most of their health insurance companies didn’t pay one dime for evidence-based obesity treatments – including intensive lifestyle intervention, anti-obesity pharmacotherapy, or bariatric surgery.”

The OMA was pleased to have multiple state and specialty societies cosponsor the resolution, including Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, the Specialty Society, Endocrinologists, and Bariatric Surgeons.

The referral for decision calls on the AMA board to immediately act on the following items:

  • Promotion of awareness amongst practicing physicians and trainees that obesity is a treatable chronic disease, along with evidence-based treatment options.
  • Advocacy efforts at the state and federal level to impact the disease obesity.
  • Health disparities, stigma, and bias affecting people with obesity.
  • Lack of insurance coverage for evidence-based treatments, including intensive lifestyle intervention, anti-obesity pharmacotherapy, and bariatric and metabolic surgery.
  • Increasing obesity rates in children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Drivers of obesity including a lack of healthful food choices, over-exposure to obesogenic foods, and food marketing practices (New HOD Policy).

The AMA has been successful in the past in addressing health epidemics, including the tobacco and opioid epidemics. OMA is excited to continue working with the AMA to reverse the epidemic of obesity threatening all Americans.