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Fixin' Healthcare

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Obesity

Obesity occupies the intersection where health and medicine meet. This intersection is far more important than it appears because of what it reveals about American culture and health potential. The trend and current position is skewed in the direction of medicine.

The American Medical Association proposes that obesity be classified as a disease. As such there might be more resources devoted to developing medications and surgical procedures to control or cure the disease and insurance coverage would be more available. In other words the medical enterprise is faced with addressing obesity and classifying it as a disease fits their operational model. It is difficult to argue that obesity is not a disease but it would be also difficult to imagine more resources devoted to controlling and reversing obesity. One conclusion is that medical care has not prevented, controlled or reversed obesity. Compare a group picture of Americans during the 1950s with one from today. The increase in body weight is striking.

Another view of obesity is that of a health condition that is a risk factor for multiple diseases. In that regard it is a danger to health status and it is of concern to the medical community. Successful resolution of obesity is a gateway to reducing a heavy health/medical burden on society. Notwithstanding the medical and surgical procedures necessary to treat the diseases secondary to obesity most evidence points to lifestyle factors resulting in obesity. Insufficient physical activity and poor diet are the main drivers for obesity. The primary aspects of poor diet are not eating enough plant based whole foods, eating too much highly processed food and drinking sweetened beverages. These are issues best addressed through individual motivation and community support. Relying upon medicine is counter productive. There are elements of the American culture also counter productive.   

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