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Quick Chat: Is Obesity a Disease?

January 19,2016

Werklund researcher discusses new designation by Canadian Medical Association

In this Quick Chat, Shelly Russell-Mayhew discusses the new designation of obesity as disease by Canadian Medical Association

January 19, 2016 - Just a few months ago, the Canadian Medical Association recognized obesity as a disease. This follows the American Medical Association making the same designation just over two years ago.

Many people interpret the change in designation to mean that, as a recognized disease, individuals who struggle with obesity and its related health issues may be involved in more and different interventions and programs focused on both treatment and prevention.

There’s also a belief that this change may create a shift in thinking--that perhaps obesity is not a choice, but rather a medical disease that needs be treated as such.

On the other hand, there are others who say that by suggesting that people who live in larger bodies suffer from a disease may add to the stigma related to their size; in other words, it may only serve to bolster the impression that these individuals somehow suffer from deficits, whether beyond their control or not.

Shelly Russell-Mayhew isn’t yet sure what she thinks about this change in the way the medical profession considers obesity.  The associate professor in the Werklund School of Education has researched weight related issues for many years, and she can see both sides of this argument.