American Medical Association declares obesity a disease

POSTED: 6:10 PM Jun 19 2013   UPDATED: 10:30 AM Jun 20 2013
NORTHSTATE -

The American Medical Association has officially declared obesity a disease after years of identifying it as a public health problem.

Joanne Tippin, a registered Dietician for Shasta Regional Medical Center's Diabetes Care Center, said, "...By calling it a disease, we can finally, hopefully get some coverage from insurance agencies. Some of the medications, some of the surgeries might be covered for it."

Tippin said from 1997 to 2012, the rate of obesity has increased 50 percent nationwide and there has been an increase in the diseases that go with it.

"About 1 in 3 Americans are obese," Tippin said. "And 1 in 3 Americans are overweight, so really two-thirds of us are either overweight or obese and both of them bring along those other chronic diseases."

She said many are hoping the new recognition will help increase health overall.

"Obesity is really just the precursor to a lot of these chronic diseases," Tippin said, "The rates of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and deaths from these diseases go up considerably."

If the rates of these diseases decrease, the hope is that costs will as well.

"It will hopefully save Medi-Cal care dollars if we can prevent the other diseases and if we can help people lose weight and get healthier," Tippin said.

Tippin said another benefit is being able to provide people with long-term help.

"Often times people think well if I lose weight, I'm done. It's a lot like diabetes in the sense that it's a lifetime change," Tippin said.

If insurance is paying for it, she said people will be more likely to stick to a weight loss program, which can lead to a longer, healthier life.