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American Obesity Association (AOA) Biography

Pro to the question "Is Obesity a Disease?"

“The American Obesity Association (AOA) believes that obesity is a disease. We want obesity understood by the health care community and patients as a serious disease of epidemic portions.

First, let’s define our terms. Dictionaries agree: obesity is excess body fat. It is not defined as a behavior. However, many people use the term obesity as short-hand for overeating or lack of exercise. But that is not its definition.

Consider this: most people can distinguish between smoking and lung cancer. One is a behavior and one is a disease. Or problem drinking of alcohol and liver disease. One is a behavior and one is a disease. Sunbathing without protection is a behavior; skin cancer is a disease.

Second, obesity – the excess accumulation of body fat – fits all the definitions of ‘disease.’ How is ‘disease’ defined? Most dictionaries, general as well as medical, define a disease as an interruption, cessation or disorder of a bodily function, organ or system. Obesity certainly fits this definition.”

“Obesity Is a Chronic Disease,” AOA website (last updated May 2, 2005)


“The American Obesity Association is the only obesity organization focused on changing public policy and perceptions about obesity. In only a few years we have become an authoritative source for policy makers, media, professionals and patients on the obesity epidemic. In this period of time we have established an impressive record of changing federal policy: having the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognize obesity as a disease, providing evidence to the IRS to make the costs of obesity treatment eligible for the medical deduction, and having Medicare change its policy language on obesity as a disease…

The American Obesity Association (AOA) is a non-profit, Delaware corporation founded in 1995 by two notable researchers in the field of obesity, Richard L. Atkinson, M.D. and Judith S. Stern, Sc.D., R.D. In late 1997, Morgan Downey was retained as Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer and the AOA opened its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The AOA is exempt from federal taxes as a 501(c)(4) organization, which allows us to do an unlimited amount of lobbying. The AOA is supported by individual memberships, both professional and lay and by corporate partners.”

“About the AOA,” AOA website (last updated May 2, 2005)


“The mission of the AOA is to act as an agent of change, move society to re-conceptualize obesity as a disease and to fashion appropriate strategies to deal with the epidemic.

Currently, the perception of obesity is one of failure of the individual. We want to change that perception to one that recognizes obesity as a complex disease involving more than personal behavior, such as our environment and genetic heritage.”

“About the AOA,” AOA website (last updated May 2, 2005)

501(c)(4) organization
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Pro & Con Quotes: Is Obesity a Disease?