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Should obesity be treated as a medical disease or a lifestyle-related condition?


DR CHRIS BEEDIE Aberystwyth University • Senior lecturer


“C


lassifying obesity as a disease could lead to more resources and push it


further up the agenda for policy makers. However, the cons far outweigh the


pros. This decision arguably reflects a trend towards the medicalisation of life. It’s not a disease: many people diagnosed as obese are actually healthy. Worryingly, this reclassification throws the weight of


responsibility onto the medical sector, potentially taking it away from individuals, parents, educators – including physical educators – and social policy makers. It puts the emphasis on treatment, not prevention, inevitably leading to expensive medical interventions to tackle what is a societal problem. Humans are programmed to eat as much as we can and to


move as little as possible. With technology and highly calorific food, current lifestyles are the perfect storm for obesity. This is what needs addressing, not the results of it. I doubt this reclassification will mean a boost for the health


and fitness sector. It could mean the opposite, with treatment, not prevention, becoming the emphasis, and medicine taking de facto responsibility for that treatment. The sector has to better evidence its effectiveness in obesity prevention and management to compete with medicine in this context.


” November/December 2013 © Cybertrek 2013


TAM FRY Child Growth Foundation • Honorary chair


“I


believe obesity should be classified as a disease – a condition to be


treated and not simply dismissed by the medical profession as a problem for parents, or individuals, to overcome. Unrecognised obesity may quickly trigger more serious conditions which are more costly to treat. Should the UK follow the lead of the US and classify obesity


as a disease, I would hope that more funds would be triggered for preventive measures, especially in primary care, which is currently woefully underfunded. In my opinion, any further funding should not be directed


into the health club industry, which is a sophisticated business and should look after itself. The industry suggests to people that it will provide a quick fix to lose weight. Actually, all people need in order to exercise is a good pair of shoes to go walking. Kids just need space to run around. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are crucial in preventing


obesity later on. Ealing Council has recognised this by investing in the recruitment of more health visitors, providing one-on- one contact for families, coaching them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle through eating healthily and taking exercise, and also supporting mothers to breastfeed, which is essential.


” Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital 33


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