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      Health leaders urge government to view obesity as disease

      On June 18, 2013, the American Medical Association recognized obesity as a disease. Now, health officials want the federal government to recognize it too.

      Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson teamed up with Michigan Department of Community Health Director, James Haveman, on Wednesday in Lansing to try and urge congress to pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act which would require Medicare to cover obesity medicines for seniors.

      "Currently the statistics show that one out of three Americans are obese and one out of three are overweight," said Doctor Patrick Friedli, Medical Director for Munson's Comprehensive Healthy Weight Center. "So that means essentially means two thirds of our population has a weight problem."

      According to MDOCH, 18 percent of Michigan was obese in 1995. The number grew to 32 percent by 2010. Now, health professionals are warning that half of the state could be obese by the year 2030.

      Which is why health leaders across the country are trying to urge congress to accept obesity as a disease. MDOCH says it's something that could reduce medical costs too.

      "With addressing obesity we do know that our medical costs in general will go down if we reduce obesity rates," said Angela Minicuci, Public Information Officer for MDOCH. "Medical costs associated with obesity in Michigan are more than $3-billion. So we do know that if we reduce our obesity rates, 75 percent of our health care expenditures are associated with chronic diseases and that would dramatically impact those numbers."

      Doctor Friedli says medication is not always the best answer for helping people to get a handle on obesity.

      "I would rather not give a prescription for a medication," said Friedly. "I would rather give a prescription's what you need to eat, here's what you need to do as far as your lifestyle and your physical activity."

      Doctors say it is common for people over the age of 65 to become obese as their bodies and life-styles begin to slow down.

      Michigan is considered the 10th heaviest state in the country.