OPENING: As the NY Times recently reported, obesity is the leading cause of mortality in the United States. Obesity costs the nation $1.72 trillion every year. Although not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, obesity and an inactive lifestyle are two of the most common causes of type 2 diabetes. These things are responsible for about 90% to 95% of diabetes cases in the United States
President Biden is set to address the cost of insulin but what about the costs of obesity which are in the billions? What about people who eat too much without exercising?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 42 percent of American adults are considered obese. “Obesity is a serious chronic disease, and the prevalence of obesity continues to increase in the United States,” they explain. In fact, they even use the word “epidemic” to describe the condition, which after smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the country.
Should the U.S. declare war on obesity, as we once did on cancer?
Obesity has included a number of prominent people, such as actors John Goodman and Kathy Bates, musicians BB King and Aretha Franklin, politicians Al Gore and Newt Gingrich, professional athletes John Kruk and Charles Barkley, media personalities Oprah Winfrey and Michael Moore, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Everyone has friends and acquaintances who now qualify as diseased.
Many sensible people, from physicians to philosophers, know that declaring obesity a disease is a mistake. Simply put, obesity is not a disease. To be sure, it is a risk factor for some diseases. But it would be as false to say that everyone who is obese is sick as to say that every normal-weight person is well. Hence the AMA’s vote raises some key questions.
Negative attitudes toward obesity, grounded in health concerns, have stimulated a number of anti-obesity policies. Many employers have instituted weight loss and fitness initiatives. The track record of governmental anti-obesity initiatives is mixed at best.
I understand that there are medical and psychological reasons for obesity but we can’t, as a society, continue to ignore it. We have to do to obesity what we did for cancer including requiring insurers to mandate nutritional counseling for those considered obese.