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Obesity declared a disease by AMA

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TYLER (KYTX) - Millions of obese Americans are now considered as having a medical disease requiring treatment.

The vote was cast Tuesday, showing what many doctors have said for years, obesity is an epidemic.

It defines 78 million adults and 12 million kids as being obese.

Some people say the decision isn't right, fighting obesity is a personal issue.

Bethany Simpson brought her son, Luke, to the park.

She's trying to keep him active this summer.

"So many kids involved in video games and iPhones and all electronics. I think it's important to go outside and play and be active and healthy," says Simpson.

Simpson's family lives on a farm, she says they eat fresh produce everyday, and the whole family is active.

"I run 2-3 miles every night," says Simpson.

Simpson says she doesn't really like the decision the American Medical Association made to define obesity as a disease, but she doesn't want to see her son become a number in those statistics.

"When we see children that are obese already, that's something we feel we can all control and potentially control earlier. Teaching children good eating habits," says Dr. Neelan Doolabh, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital.

He says the move to make obesity a disease could help doctors in the long run.

"If we can treat the primary cause, which is obesity, you can potentially fend off diabetes, high cholesterol, some of these other associated diseases which lead to further problems,"says Dr. Doolabh.

Problems that he treats.

Dr. Doolabh also thinks this could lead to health care covering the cost of education and treating people suffering from obesity.

"For a large part, I see obesity as a problem that has a solution," says Dr. Doolabh.

But Simpson says the burden shouldn't fall on health care, but on each person individually.

"I think people should get out there and be active and really watch what they're eating and eat healthy," says Simpson.

Many fear the decision made Tuesday will put pressure on health insurance companies to reimburse doctors for time spent discussing obesity, it's risks and what to do with patients.

As of now most insurance policies exclude treatment for obesity itself.

But treatment for obesity related illnesses costs more than 150 billion dollars a year.

A Duke University study shows that number could jump 550 billion dollars higher in the next 20 years if obesity numbers continue to rise.

Some doctors say the term disease could create more problems for those who already face the challenge of losing weight.

Others say this could lead to much needed changes in physical education initiative and reforms on school lunches.

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