CHICAGO — Obesity is a major problem and one that the traditional health care system seems ill-equipped to solve. Many of the best ways to treat or prevent obesity entail getting patients to change their behavior by exercising and eating better, neither of which is in the wheelhouse of a primary care physician.
Nearly one-third of U.S. adults are obese and the condition exacerbates other problems including heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. It has become so severe that the AMA's House of Delegates this week voted to classify obesity as a disease.
"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," said AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D. "The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity."
At its annual meeting this week, the AMA devoted a portion of a Ted Talk-like presentation to the issue of obesity. Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., clinical and research fellow in obesity medicine and nutrition, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, tried giving physicians an incentive to take action.
"Obesity adversely affects every major organ system," Stanford said. "What we are doing has not been working."
She urged physicians to ask patients simple questions about diet, exercise and sleep, all of which can have a big effect on weight.
On a related topic, there has also been a fair amount of attention to diabetes at the meeting. The YMCA of the USA, the umbrella organization for the confederation of YMCAs across the country, was on hand to discuss its efforts to curb diabetes, and Heather Hodge, manager of chronic disease prevention programs, outlined the program in this video interview:
The YMCA and AMA are working in consort to support the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program. The idea is to target people likely to get diabetes. The program is classroom-based and focuses on education and teaching good habits and decision-making, which tend to work better than a mandated diet or exercise plan, says Heather Hodge, manager of chronic disease-prevention programs for the YMCA. For more on how the YMCA program works.
And to see how hospitals are confronting the diabetes epidemic, be sure to check out our yearlong series, Diabetes: An Alarming Epidemic.
We'll have a wrap-up report from the AMA's meeting in tomorrow's H&HN Daily.