More than a third of adults and nearly a fifth of children in the US are now officially considered to have a disease: obesity. The American Medical Association has now declared obesity to be a disease, a move it hopes will influence policy changes on the same scale that sharply cut deaths from smoking and from traffic accidents, NBC News reports. Obesity rates have "doubled among adults in the last 20 years and tripled among children in a single generation," notes the AMA, which has previously referred to obesity as an "urgent chronic condition" and a "complex disorder."
"More widespread recognition of obesity as a disease could result in greater investments by government and the private sector to develop and reimburse obesity treatments,” the AMA said in a statement. "Employers may be required to cover obesity treatments for their employees and may be less able to discriminate on the basis of body weight." The decision makes it a doctor's professional obligation to diagnose and treat obesity, reports the Los Angeles Times, which notes that studies have found more than half of obese patients have never had a medical professional tell them they should lose weight.