The American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease, requiring more intervention, treatment and prevention.
Dr. Brian Smith, region director of Texas Department of State Health Services said Thursday that obesity is a nationwide epidemic.
"Second to tobacco, obesity, nutrition habits and exercise are the second most important cause of illness in the United States," Smith said.
It's hard to list a certain criteria for determining what constitutes a disease, however, Smith said obesity is definitely a contributing factor to many illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
The Center for Disease Control classifies obesity in an adult as a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, and 23 or greater for a 10-year-old.
Smith adds obesity could've been classified as a disease 20 years ago, but it's until now that society is ready to acknowledge it as such.
"(This classification) allows us, perhaps with insurance companies, to call it a disease and then pay for nutrition counseling, for dieticians to come-in and professionally help and assess people," Smith said.
Cameron County and Hidalgo County lead the nation's obesity rates. He hopes the new classification will force people to take this issue seriously and that society will refuse the notion that some are "just built that way, especially for the sake of younger generations.
"It's completely unrealistic to have children (and) to tell them to go out and exercise by themselves, Smith said. You can't take an 8-year-old and say ~go exercise, TM - you have to provide opportunities, they need safe places to get out and play, (and) they need the example of their parents to get out doors and play."