The American Medical Association has moved forward in its fight against obesity

The American Medical Association (AMA) moved forward in its fight against obesity, adopting several new policies to help combat the nation's growing problem with obesity and unhealthy eating. The policies address a number of issues, including the role of racial and ethnic disparities in obesity.

While obesity is a problem throughout American society – with 31 percent of U.S. adults 20 and older considered obese – racial and ethnic minorities are particularly at risk for obesity and its health complications. A recent study found that 46 percent of African-American women are obese, compared to about 24 percent of white women.

New AMA policy recognizes that racial and ethnic disparities exist in the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. To combat these disparities, the AMA will now recommend that:

  • Physicians use culturally responsive care to improve the treatment and management of obesity and diet-related diseases in minority populations.
  • Cultural and socioeconomic considerations should be included in nutritional and dietary research and guidelines in order to treat overweight and obese patients.
  • Culturally effective guidelines that include ethnic food staples and multicultural symbols to depict serving sizes should be included in the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Guide Pyramid.

"Physicians play an important role in educating patients on healthy lifestyles, including diet," Ronald M. Davis, M.D. said. "Incorporating more ethnic foods into USDA recommendations can help physicians and others communicate the importance of a healthy diet to all Americans."

The AMA will take a leading role in education and outreach to physicians through new policies that call for the AMA and its Minority Affairs Consortium (MAC) to:

  • Seek ways to assist physicians with applying the final USDA Guidelines and Pyramid in their practices.
  • Monitor research and identify opportunities where organized medicine can have an impact on issues related to obesity, nutritional and dietary guidelines, racial and ethnic health disparities.
  • Assist physicians with delivering culturally effective care.

Other new obesity policy calls for increased awareness of what people eat by requiring restaurants with multiple locations to provide information on the nutritional content of food items, and for school and work cafeterias and restaurants to have ingredient lists for all menu items. The AMA is calling for healthy food options to be available at hospitals as well.

"It is our hope that by increasing consumers' awareness of what they eat, consumers will be more likely to think twice about eating unhealthy foods," Dr. Davis said.

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