Obesity is a killer. It plays a part in no fewer than 300,000 deaths a year. A recent report released by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit think tank dedicated to objective research and analysis for improvement of public policy and decision-making, put obesity ahead of smoking, problem drinking and living in poverty as detrimental to your health.
The list of medical complications caused by obesity is staggering. In a clinical study cited by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 80 percent of obese adults were diagnosed with one or more chronic ailment. Those included gallbladder disease, coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and type-two diabetes.
When you think of the terrible toll obesity takes on our society, you can only ask yourself: Why doesn’t the medical profession make this a priority? Why don’t they declare it a major threat, like cancer, and apply our scientific knowledge and research capabilities to finding a cure?
Among health and fitness professionals, a heated debate is still raging. Should obesity itself be declared a disease? Proponents say such a designation will get the problem taken more seriously. Funding and research will follow. Opponents, however, claim that personal responsibility will be negated if obesity is tucked into a list of diseases. It will encourage a victim mentality among sufferers.
An executive officer at one of the major medical insurance companies insists that obesity is a preventable event that requires a response from society, not medication from pharmaceutical companies. “If we consider obesity a disease,” he says, “what it really implies is that individuals have no control over what’s happening.”
A professor of nutrition studies at the University of Missouri agrees. “I believe it is too premature to declare obesity a disease,” he says. “By doing so, it will only make the situation worse.” He goes on to explain how our focus should be on promoting health and fitness. “Calling obesity a disease will likely promote our nation’s preoccupation with weight loss…and would undermine the entire purpose of health promotion.”
But perhaps this debate is coming closer to closure. A few years back, at least one major government agency made its decision. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services quietly removed a rule that stated obesity is not a disease. Until then, Medicare would not pay for obesity treatments, unless it was associated with some other disease or if the patient was morbidly obese.
So those who want the medical profession to turn full attention to obesity as a disease have some hope. The concept is not yet widespread, but the tide of opinion does appear to be turning.