Designating obesity a 'disease' may change treatments

Designating obesity a 'disease' may change treatments

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 12:39 PM

BOISE -- The American Medical Association has officially designated obesity as a disease, not a disorder or condition. That move happened this week.

The AMA says the disease requires medical treatment and prevention. That's a big deal, considering one-third of Americans have the disease of obesity.

Dr. David Pate is the CEO of Saint Luke's Health System. "It's a good way to move. I think it's important."

He's in favor of the move, considering many other diseases are self-inflicted. "We need to stop treating obesity as a personal weakness, a personal flaw."

This has already gotten people talking. Some experts say it may inspire doctors to tackle obesity in patients more aggressively, by treating obesity specifically, instead of the many other ailments it causes.

"What we've been doing, hasn't been working," said Pate. "It is time for a new approach. Perhaps, if labeling it a disease is something that's going to get the attention, the funding, the programs, and efforts made to address it, then by all means."

What about that funding? We talked to an insurance company that says this won't really affect them, since insurance companies don't cover the diagnosis, they cover the service or procedure.

Pate himself says it will take more than insurance companies or the AMA to win the battle against obesity, it will take an entire health system overhaul. "More funding would be huge, but we're looking at changing the model to where we get rewarded for improving peoples' health. Today, physicians or hospitals are not rewarded for whether your health is improved. We're rewarded for doing things to you, whether you get better or not."

Pate also believes we all need to work together to get the community healthier. If that doesn't happen, he says the rate at which Idahoans are getting obese will continue to rise, kids will continue to get obese younger, and health costs for everyone will continue to rise, as we pay for this wave of disease.

The AMA is one of the largest medical associations in the country and has incredible clout. So, while this won't immediately change the way insurance companies cover obesity treatments, that may change down the road.

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