Obesity as a disease

When the American Medical Association (AMA) recently recognized obesity as a disease, it focused public attention on a situation that cannot be cured with medication and is not a contagious virus—but that does not make it any less dangerous.

The AMA’s decision puts obesity, a problem that affects one-third of the population, in a category that prevents doctors from ignoring it—just like they are required to treat a patient’s various medical conditions. Likewise, health care to treat obesity should be adequately covered by medical insurance, like any other health issue.

There is no doubt that excessive weight leads to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer.

The challenge is recognizing the wide range of elements that lead to obesity. These include poor nutrition as a cultural, traditional and economic matter; the lack of exercise among children and adults; the connections to metabolism and genetics. In the majority of cases, obesity is the result of a combination of factors.

Obesity poses a complex challenge that must be tackled—both because of human suffering and the loss of quality of life that it eventually leads to, as well as the economic cost of treating diseases associated with obesity and the negative impact on the nation’s productivity.

The Latino community is closely familiar with the effects of obesity. Limb amputations caused by diabetes are a painful reality that should not be in our children’s future.

The AMA’s decision to declare obesity a disease is a collective call to action. As a society, we must find a comprehensive way to put better food options within reach, value exercise as much as it deserves and provide much-needed preventive and regular health care.