Boiseans react to AMA's obesity 'disease' label

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Some people we talked to who are personally confronted with obesity say classifying it as a disease is long overdue.

"I think it's an idea that's time has come, because obviously I have some issues (with obesity)," said Debbie Daniels of Boise. "I think by classifying it as a disease, the medical community will be able to help more people."

Others aren't sure the new distinction is appropriate.

"I don't know. I don't have it," said Chase Wolfe of Boise. " Personally, I don't think it's much of a disease."

But the American Medical Association has now gone from regarding obesity as a "major public health problem" to recognizing it as a disease.

It's estimated 36 percent of American adults are obese, and the problem is equally as prevalent with children.

Dr. David Pate is both a primary care physician as well as president and CEO of St. Luke's Health Systems. He says the AMA's new designation is a positive move and provides doctors with options.

"And I think that's why the AMA came out for this," said Dr. Pate. "They realize this is a problem, that it needs attention, needs resources, and it ought to be considered a disease."

And Dr. Pate says while treatment is critical, prevention is the key.

"What I would like to do is figure out how we prevent people from developing obesity in the first place," he said. "Devoting resources to people who are already sick and have complications is important, but that's now how we're going to get health care costs down."