Combating Obesity In Michigan

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

During a news conference designed to build support for obesity medications, everything was going well until the last speaker opened his mouth--problem was, he's a medical doctor.

"The answer does not lie in medication. The answer lies in being fit," said Dr. Fred Van Alstine, the board president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians. "I think obesity is a symptom, not a disease. It's a symptom of us being sedentary, and it's a symptom of our abundance. By nature, animals don't pass up food and by nature animals don't exercise when they don't have to."

Rather than medications, the doctor said plenty of exercise, while eating lots of fruits and vegetables--is key.

Still Wednesday Tommy Thompson, a former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Governor of Wisconsin had a different message.

"Not everybody is able to have a good metabolic system that's going to allow for eating properly and exercising is going to make that individual fit, and so in those cases, medicines may be necessary," said Thompson.

Thompson wants congress to pass the "Treat and Reduce Obesity Act" which would require medicare to cover obesity medicines.

"Respectfully, medicine doesn't get people healthy. Medicine treats problems," said Van Alstine. "I think we overly rely on medicine."

Doctors aren't the only folks with reservations.

"If we go down the path that the advocates appear to be dealing with then it's too easy then to get into the next realm of specialty drugs, and those could bankrupt our entire system," said Richard Murdock of the Michigan Association of Health Plans. "I think it creates expectations and consumer demand for products that may not be medically necessary."

Opponents said rather than treatment, the focus should be on prevention and motivation.

"If it was easy and there was a magic bullet I would be 50 lbs. lighter. There are no magic bullets. There are no easy answers other than being fit," said Van Alstine.

The doctor also challenged Governor Rick Snyder to veto recent legislation that doesn't treat e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. He said medical organizations are opposed to the bill because they don't want another generation addicted to nicotine.


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