I see the AMA has defined obesity as a disease recently. I know Burt Nordstrand, founder of Cor Retreat is happy about that as it will help him with his cause of combating obesity via his programs at the Retreat in Wayzata. I know some folks who have been to his program and they appreciate the teaching of sugar and other addictions that can cause obesity, and as I understand it, uses some of the 12 step concepts from AA. Burt has passion for helping people overcome obesity; definitely he is not in this for the money. In fact he is spending his own money to promote it. Can’t help but respect him for that!
Alcohol and drug addiction was also defined by AMA many years ago as a disease rather than a bad habit. I am sure they have medical science support for doing so and all in all it has been a good thing. Both alcohol and obesity can cause death which is the simplest justification for defining disease that I can understand. The bigger issue may be to reduce the stigma of either as no one faults anyone for catching a disease; so they can be free to deal with the problem.
Alcohol treatment has been around for many years, some I am aware of started in the early 1900’s. Back then it was treated as a sin and ministries sprung up to help these folks out of their despair. I know of one in Minnesota that was founded by a Norwegian immigrant and is still here in the cities. I guess Norwegians would have been the main market back then in Minnesota! Norwegians may still be a good market…
I volunteer with one Christian treatment center, New Hope Center and am very familiar with Teen Challenge which is located here in the cities too. Teen Challenge folks were just at my church sharing their stories and choral message which they do at churches almost every week. These ministries focus on the total healing and redemption of the individual rather than just the addiction healing. I think they go hand in hand.
Most have heard about AA and AA meetings which are almost anywhere you go. Fewer have heard of Celebrate Recovery that was started by Saddleback Church in California, part of the Rick Warren ministry. I have been to both programs and spoken at each at the invitation of the leaders. Both programs seem to work if people will submit to the principles they provide; AA 12 steps and Celebrate Recovery 8 steps which are similar to the 12 but based on the Beatitudes. The Celebrate Recovery meeting I spoke at dealt with lots of addictions; alcohol, drugs, money, food, sex, you name it. One difference in the meetings is that AA primarily treats the problem as a disease that is only managed by abstinence while Celebrate Recovery promotes the idea that the addict can accept healing through Christ along with staying abstinent. AA leaves the definition of the “higher power” to the participant.
With the definition of addiction as a disease came treatment programs that were supported by insurance companies. I.E., they would pay for the patient treatment which is quite costly. Previously places like Hazelden, and the faith based programs had to rely mostly on donations to sustain their work.
But change also brings other consequences. To be eligible for insurance reimbursement programs must be what they call “cognitive” rather than faith based. So the faith based program are not eligible for insurance dollars. They must continue to rely on contributions for the most part.
Unfortunately the secular treatment centers that used to incorporate a lot of faith in their treatments had to water down their definition of the “higher power” in order to get insurance money. While the founders of AA sought guidance from the Oxford Group, a Christian evangelical group in the early 1900’s, it was not a Christian program per se. The 12 steps were based on Biblical principles, but not strongly promoted as such so as to not scare away the non-believers. But many came to believe via the process.
So I think that while the definition of addiction as a disease will help many people overcome it, it saddens me that the faith based programs will continue to struggle for donors as they have been since they started. Soon the obesity programs will be subject to regulations too, like other addictions. And the paper work!
My church supports both Teen Challenge and Metro Hope ministries. I strongly recommend both for your donor, tax deductible, dollars! They need it!