At the same time, studies show some doctors have biases toward obese patients. A 2009 Journal of General Internal Medicine study showed that 40 Baltimore area physicians and 238 of their patients found that doctors have a lower respect for patients with higher BMI.
That's no way to help patients.
Harris of the AMA is convinced, however, that characterizing obesity as a disease will spur much-needed changes in treatment of the condition.
"Recognizing obesity as a disease will encourage patients and physicians to have candid conversations about their weight, and also about other key health indicators like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels," she says.
"This will help to facilitate a dialogue between patients and physicians to determine which behavioral, medicinal or surgical options may be right for each patient," she adds.
If physicians don't have that "dialogue" with patients, the AMA's characterization of obesity as a disease won't mean much, and will be pretty much forgotten, especially if funding for treatment of obesity isn't improved.