Is Not Calling Obesity A Disease Discrimination?Monday, September 21, 2015
Indeed, there are people who consider “obesity” to be largely a “social construct” invented by the “medical establishment” to “medicalize” something┬áthat is simply a natural part of the spectrum of human shape and size.
Funnily enough, some of the┬ámost passionate┬áopposition to calling obesity a disease, comes from that very same “medical establishment”┬á-┬ádoctors who don’t want to see providing┬áobesity care as part of their job, hospital administrators who think providing obesity treatments takes resources away from dealing with “real” diseases, and payers who fear having to shell out millions of dollars for expensive obesity treatments.
Indeed, if I had to point to one single factor that has in fact stopped the “medical establishment” from finding better treatments and providing access to effective and compassionate care for people struggling with excess weight, it is their refusal┬áto consider┬áobesity a disease.
The paradox in all this would be funny if it were not so sad – it turns out that many in the very same┬á”medical establishment”┬áthat is being sharply┬ácriticized by social scientists and the size-acceptance crowd┬áfor “medicalizing” obesity, are┬áin fact fighting as hard as they┬ápossibly can to NOT have obesity declared a disease.
So oddly, the people who appear┬áso concerned that labeling obesity a disease could somehow discriminate against┬ápeople of size,┬á┬áare widely supported by the general public, many of who would think the notion of obesity as a disease ridiculous, given that in their view, being large┬áis simply a matter of poor choices. ┬áSounds to me, like a rather uncanny alliance between the far left and the far right.
While I fully understand that for some people, being “labeled” as having a disease may be traumatic, I see this as no more or less traumatic than being “labeled” as having hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, or for that matter, cancer.
Does this mean some people for who their excess weight poses no medical risk will get mislabeled? Sure it does. But there are also many otherwise healthy folks “labeled” as having hypertension, diabetes or even cancer, who will live to a ripe old age┬á- good for them!
I am also the first to celebrate size and shape diversity and readers may recall that I invented the Edmonton Obesity Staging System to deal with the issue of “healthy” obesity.
However for those,┬ástruggling with the health consequences of excess weight, if calling obesity a disease gets them better access to treatments – so be it!
Case in point – the American Medical Association‘s declaration of obesity as a chronic disease has been one of the key drivers of┬ápolicy decisions to include obesity treatment in various care plans across the US.
So before we accuse anyone of discriminating against larger people by calling obesity a “disease”, let’s dare ask the question – who do we harm by refusing to┬ádo so?