As you know by now, the American Medical Association's House of Delegates voted this week to define obesity as a disease. The classification could have a dramatic effect on the delivery system. For starters, it is certain to increase pressure on health insurers to pay clinicians for time spent with patients discussing the health impact — and treatment of — obesity.

In recognizing obesity as a disease, AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D., stated, "Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans. 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."
In light of the AMA vote, here are some facts about the disease:

  • According to WebMD, a person is considered obese if his or her BMI is 30. How do you know your BMI? This graph from the NIH can help.
  • 35.7 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of youth are obese, according to the CDC.
  • Among men, obesity is generally the same across income levels, with 33 percent of those living above 350 percent of the poverty level and 29 percent of those living below 130 percent of the poverty level being obese. For women, the rate of obesity increases as income decreases — 29 percent of women at or above 350 percent of poverty level are obese while 42 percent of women with incomes below 130 percent of the poverty level are obese.
  • A dozen states have adult obesity rates exceeding 30 percent. Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity at 34.9 percent. Colorado has the lowest rate at 20.7 percent, according to the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.