Why obesity should not be classed as a disease

by External07 Aug 2013

Following the recent US decision to classify obesity as a disease, Jamie Hayes presents a counter argument as to why this should not be done in Australia.

In the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, the word "disease" is sandwiched between "disdain" and "disembark".

Declaring something a disease seeks to “medicalise” the symptom. The impetus for doing this typically comes from the lobbying of a pharmaceutical company or surgical supplier who would benefit as they offer some solution to the "symptom”.

The hard reality is that employers and even customers (B2C or B2B) discriminate against obese and overweight people.

Obese people are less likely to get jobs, promotions and sales. You can't judge a book by its cover, but the world does.

Without saying why, many employers silently discriminate – refusing to hire a person who is overweight.

Other employers face a moral and legal conflict when a worker gains excessive weight during their term of employment – and they believe the weight gain has affected the worker’s contribution.

The performance of the now obese employee may be the same, but it affects the way the world interacts with the person and the company. None of this is fair, but it is reality.

Attaching guilt to the obese person is not the answer, as they are caught up in a global pandemic.

Rather than alienate an overweight employee, an employer should try to help them.

But in the current environment it’s an uphill battle.

If an employer wants to sponsor a willing employee into an offsite commercial weight loss program, they not only have to pay Fringe Benefits Tax, but they are not eligible for a tax deduction.

This is despite the significant benefits that would flow.

It would not only boost an employee's health, it would also provide job security.

And taxpayers would be the big winners – obesity is now one of the biggest drains on the Australian health care system.

About the author 

Jamie Hayes is the managing director of Healthy Inspirations, an Australian company that provides innovative weight loss programs for women. He is a health and fitness expert with more than 30 years’ experience in his field. Visit www.healthyinspirations.com.au