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January 31, 2020

OMA | Article Response (January 2020)

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The below is a response to “Obesity is America’s self-inflicted preexisting condition” an article featured on on January 23, 2020.

There is a lot of outdated science and uninformed medicine to unpack in this article. Obesity is certainly associated with a host of other conditions, but the AMA rightfully classifies it as a disease. And as clinicians, it is vital that we approach obesity as a serious chronic and treatable disease. That starts with identifying overweight bias, much like that displayed in this piece, for people-first language (1) that affirms our patients’ humanity and doesn’t label them with their disease.

Much like the evolution in thinking about the way we treat clinical depression — today no reputable clinician would dream of prescribing forced seizures and lobotomies as was the practice in the 1940s, or state that depression is not a disease — many in the medical establishment are overdue for a paradigm shift regarding obesity.

Fortunately, for the more than 93 million Americans living with obesity according to the CDC (2), much has changed in our understanding of the disease over the past 50 years. We know now that describing obesity as the natural result of laziness sets a damaging precedent. We know of the hormonal and metabolic differences (3) between people with obesity and those without the condition. We know that these hormonal adaptations (4) to the disease make the advice to “eat less and move more” an incomplete prescription at best. And we know that there are a number of viable treatment options (5) for people struggling with obesity.

For clinicians and other healthcare professionals interested in advancing their knowledge of the disease — a worthwhile endeavor given its growing prevalence — the Obesity Medicine Association (6) offers a trove of evidence-based, medically sound resources. Bring them into your practices and become better able to meet the needs of your patients with obesity.

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA, President of The Obesity Medicine Association

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