Nursing free essays: Should Obesity be considered a Disease?
Should Obesity be considered a Disease?
Obesity is one of the most prevalent health problems in the US and the rest of the world. In the US, more than 74 million adults aged 20 years and above and more than 12 million children aged below 20 years are obese (Center for Disease Control and Prevention n.d). During the last three decades, the obesity prevalence in the US has more than doubled. The increase in the rate of obesity has mainly been caused by lifestyle changes. An important issue about obesity is that it is characterized by excessive weight in the body. The excessive weight is caused by consuming more energy than the energy that is spent. The excess energy that is consumed is turned into fats and deposited within the body, hence making the body to have excess fats. Thus, obesity can be changed through a change in lifestyle habits, such as avoiding overeating, avoiding drinks and foods with too much processed sugar and engaging in exercises frequently (Capodaglio, Faintuch and Liuzzi 182). Considering the causes and characteristics and treatment for obesity, it has been regarded as a condition and not a disease for a long time. In the US, obesity was labeled a disease by American Medical Association in 2013 after a long debate. The debate has been going on even after that, with some healthcare stakeholders arguing that obesity should be regarded as a condition and not a disease. The opponents and proponents of the issue give valid arguments, but regarding obesity as a risk factor for other diseases is better than labeling it as a disease. To understand both sides of the argument, this paper seeks to answer the following question based on the ideas of different stakeholders: Should obesity be considered a disease?
One of the reasons why American Medical Association labeled obesity as a disease is that doing so would trigger significant response to deal with it. In particular, the American Medical Association suggested that labeling obesity a disease would help to trigger research and establishment of effective ways of preventing and treating it. The argument is valid to the extent that labeling obesity as a disease would mean that it would be categorized as a disease that requires intervention by the government (Stoner et al. 316). The government would allocate more resources on intervention programs meant to address the problem of obesity. However, some health professionals and scholars have argued that labeling obesity as a disease is wrong since it is not a disease at all. They have argued that obesity is a risk factor for other diseases, such as heart diseases and diabetes, but it is not a disease. The opponents, such as Dr. Robert Gilchick, have argued that the government can still be influenced to address the problem of obesity even when it is not regarded as a disease. The opponents have suggested that instead of labeling obesity a disease, it would be better to focus on the dysfunctions that are caused by obesity in the body (Stoner et al. 316).
The Council on Science and Public Health argued that labeling obesity as a disease helps to prevent stigmatization of people who are obese and makes people who are obese accept their condition. When obesity is regarded as a condition that is simply caused by bad eating behaviors and the failure to do exercises, it is perceived as a condition that emerges from personal choices. Thus, people who are obese might be stigmatized due to the notion that they have failed to take action to address the problem (Stoner et al. 317). In 2014, scholars in the University of Minnesota carried out three studies that were meant to determine the effect of labeling obesity as a disease on the Americans. The studies were conducted on more than 700 respondents (Matter n.d). The researchers found that the message about obesity being a disease enhanced body satisfaction among the people who are obese. The researchers found that the message reduced shame among the respondents who felt that their obese condition is caused by moral failing. When people who are not obese received the message, they had more positive perceptions towards the obese individuals than before receiving the message (Stoner et al. 317). Thus, labeling obesity as a disease is vital since it helps to prevent stigmatization of the obese individuals and to remove negative-self perceptions among the obese individuals. Despite this, labeling obesity as a disease has been found to have a negative impact on the obese individuals. When the obese people accept that obesity is a disease, they are likely to think that their condition is permanent and that the efforts to prevent or reduce excessive weight are futile (Stoner et al. 317). The results of the study conducted by the scholars from the University of Minnesota supported that argument. The findings derived from that study indicated that when obese individuals received the message about obesity as a disease, they felt that their condition is a fixed state (Matter n.d). Such perception can influence the obese individuals to stop taking measures such as engaging in exercises and dieting to prevent obesity.
Matter (n.d) noted that regarding obesity as a disease helps to increase the role played by the health professionals, such as nurses and medical doctors, in addressing the problem. Prior to regarding obesity as a disease, the US citizens could rarely seek for services meant to address the problem of obesity from healthcare institutions mainly because they could not be reimbursed through healthcare insurance (Stoner et al. 318). For instance, the Americans could rarely seek for consultancy services from the healthcare professionals. At the same time, the healthcare professionals could rarely concentrate on treating the problem of obesity since they felt that it was not their responsibility. Instead, they could simply advice the patients on ways of reducing weight when treating other diseases that are caused by obesity. When obesity is labeled a disease, the healthcare professionals feel that it is their responsibility to treat it and to advice the patients on how to prevent it, even in the situations where the patients do not have other illnesses (Stoner et al. 318). Also, more people will seek for the services of the healthcare professionals to address the problem of obesity since they will be reimbursed by the government. However, one of the issues raised Dr. Robert Gilchick is that regarding obesity as a disease is a costly endeavor. The government will be spending a lot of resources in supporting the treatment and prevention of obesity. The government is already experiencing a big burden in the amount of resources it allocates to the healthcare system. Labeling obesity as a disease will increase the burden, yet the citizens can .contribute in addressing the problem through changing their lifestyles (Stoner et al. 319).
Last, the Council on Science and Public Health argued that obesity should be labeled a disease since it impairs body functions just like other diseases, yet people do not have full control of their bodies. Too much fat on the body has negative impacts on some body functions. For instance, the fat can prevent smooth flow of blood though the blood vessels. Also, obesity is characterized by hormonal imbalance in the body that makes an individual to have craving appetite. In some cases, obesity is characterized by mental disorders that influence people to eat excess food (Stoner et al. 320). Such problems have been used to justify why obesity should be labeled a disease. However, the opponents, such as Dr. Robert Gilchick, have argued that some people who are regarded as being overweight may actually be healthy since the use of Body Mass Index measurement is not always an accurate way of determining whether a person is obese or not. Regarding a healthy person as obese can cause psychological problems on that person, such as rejection sensitivity, lowered self-esteem and body dysmporphian (Stoner et al. 320).
Overall, obesity is a prevalent health problem that requires significant intervention by all stakeholders. One of the recent interventions by healthcare professional bodies is to label obesity as a disease in order. However, some scholars, healthcare professionals and policy makers believe that obesity should not be labeled as a disease. Both sides of the argument are supported by valid reasons, as indicated in the above analysis. In my view, it is better to accept the fact that obesity is a risk factor for other diseases, such as the hearth diseases, than to label it as a disease. Regarding it as a disease will make the Americans reluctant from taking proactive measures to avoid obesity and thus, the prevalence of obesity will not reduce. The burden on the government will also increase. Prior to conducting the analysis, I was supporting the move to label obesity as a disease due to the expected benefits of doing that. From the analysis, however, I have realized that it is better to adopt alternative strategies to sensitive people about the negative effects of obesity and how to prevent and treat it than to regard it as a disease.
Capodaglio, Paolo, Joel Faintuch and Antonio Liuzzi. Disabling Obesity: From Determinants to
Health Care Models. New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2013. Print.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Adult Obesity Facts.” September 1. 2016. Web.
[https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html] Accessed April 6 2017.
Matter, Gray. “Should Obesity Be a ‘Disease’?” The Daily, February 21. 2014. Web
[https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/should-obesity-be-a-disease.html?_r=0] Accessed April 6 2017.
Stoner, Lee, Kim Gaffney, Daniel Wadsworth and Rachel Page. “Should obesity be considered a
disease?” Perspect Public Health. 134.6(2014):314-325. doi: 10.1177/1757913914551917.
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