South Florida Doctor Says Obesity Is a Disease

Dr. Jorge Rabaza, Chief of Surgery at South Miami Hospital, says obesity is a disease.

By Keith Jones
|  Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013  |  Updated 9:41 AM EDT
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Dr. Jorge Rabaza, Chief of Surgery at South Miami Hospital, says obesity is a disease.

Dr. Jorge Rabaza, Chief of Surgery at South Miami Hospital, says obesity is a disease.

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Physicians have said it all along: obesity is a disease, not a disorder. It's not a condition.

That according to Dr. Jorge Rabaza, Chief of Surgery at South Miami Hospital and weight loss specialist.

It's the reason obesity has far reaching, detrimental medical affects.

"Among the medical people it has always been considered a disease, because it leads to someone with diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease," Rabaza said.

And because of that, health care costs are huge. By recognizing and declaring obesity as a disease, doctors would be able to treat it aggressively, which isn't something they do now.

During checks up and appointments for other ailments, Doctor Rabaza says many physicians will notice a patient tipping the scales and in passing suggest the patient lose weight.

"For example, if you go to the doctor now and have high blood pressure, he's going to treat for high BP, bring you back in a couple of weeks and see how you're doing," Rabaza said. "These (obese) patients don't get that. They say, 'hey lose the weight.'"

Rabaza said it makes sense to pay physicians to treat obesity aggressively, because there's documented proof it works. Rabaza said he's treated patients who are morbidly obese for years through gastric bypass and other procedures. They lose weight, their diabetes goes away and their hypertension is no longer a problem.

The medical hurdle here seems to be the insurance companies and how to get them to pay for obese treatment. Doctor Rabaza said the AMA has clout.

"The American Medical Association is one of the largest medical associations in the country. So they have to listen to what they're saying," he said.

By declaring obesity a disease, Rabaza said health care premiums might increase in the short term. However, treating obesity will reduce the number of overweight patients and in the long term less medical care will be needed, thereby reducing health care costs.

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