AMA sets out more goals in obesity fight
■ The Association wants doctors to work with schools and other community institutions to stem the tide.
By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted July 18, 2005
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Chicago -- Acknowledging that the obesity epidemic will not be tackled in the clinical setting alone, the American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs issued a report at the AMA Annual Meeting in June calling on physicians to advocate for change within their communities to make them more conducive to healthier living.
"We are just starting on this issue," said J. Chris Hawk, MD, who presented the report for the council. "We have a long way to go."
To aid this work, particularly in the school system, the AMA plans to develop a school health advocacy agenda. This effort will include recommending stricter limits on declining participation in physical education programs, policies that promote healthier options in vending machines and standards for cafeteria food.
"Focusing our efforts on nutrition and exercise in schools can help prevent obesity and overweight in many children who may be at risk," said AMA Trustee Ronald Davis, MD.
Making changes in the clinical setting is also on the to-do list. For example, the AMA urged doctors to incorporate body mass index and waist circumference in adult's annual physicals. Children should have only their BMI measured.
The Association did, however, stop short of calling obesity a disease and intends to convene a summit to consider this concept further.
In related action, the AMA will encourage hospitals to provide healthy food and cease selling food that is not. In general, nutritional labels should include information detailing both the absolute amount and percent daily values for nutrients.
The Association also plans to study whether sugar-sweetened soft drinks should be taxed to fund obesity prevention efforts. Delegates did not endorse this concept outright because of concerns that this would oversimplify what some termed to be a complicated condition.
"Taxing a single behavior tends to undermine the science behind the etiology of obesity and tends to confuse the public," said Holly Wyatt, MD, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. "It makes a problem that isn't simple seem simple."