Not a choice, but a disease

OBESITY must be formally classified as a chronic disease to make headway with the shocking health crisis, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians says.

Horrified by the level of obesity-related health problems in children, doctors believe obesity must no longer be framed as a choice but as a disease.

"Doctors are seeing heart, kidney and eye problems they have never seen before and it is shocking to witness primary-age children present with adult-onset type 2 diabetes, knock knees, flat feet and back pain due to the pressures on the skeleton," Professor Boyd Swinburn, who leads the new RACP 2018 position statement on obesity, told News Queensland.

"They have sleep apnoea, metabolic problems and psychological issues.

"We plan to meet with health bodies, including the Australian Medical Association with our new position statement to ask for urgent backing on the disease classification," he said.

The Australian Medical Association has been reluctant to follow the American Medical Association, which recognised obesity as a disease in 2013.

Doctors are seeing heart, kidney and eye problems they have never seen before.
Doctors are seeing heart, kidney and eye problems they have never seen before.


AMA chief Dr Michael Gannon said calling obesity a disease "is complicated".

"BMI is an imperfect measure - there can be difficulties in definition, but the AMA is not precious about definitions and we are very interested in a set of policies from all levels of government to ease the burden of obesity and a way to increase the numbers of public bariatric surgeries," Dr Gannon said.

Advocates believe it will boost investment in treatment and research and reduce stigma that obesity is self-inflicted.
 

The RACP wants to see a comprehensive national obesity prevention strategy; an effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and food - using the revenue to fund initiatives that encourage healthy diets and exercise; the restriction of marketing on healthy food and drinks to children and a revision of the health star rating by 2019 showing a stronger indication of weight to sugar content.



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