Some people in Charlottetown are skeptical about the American Medical Association's decision to call obesity a disease.

The question is a particularly important one on P.E.I., which has one of the highest rates of obesity in the country. On a warm spring evening Wednesday, people out for a run in Victoria Park were mostly of the opinion that obesity is about choices, not disease.

pe-hi-obesity-charlottetown-4col

P.E.I. has one of the highest rates of obesity in the country. (CBC)

"It's certainly a choice, absolutely," said Cody Burke.

"It's no different than smoking or drinking. You know, people can do it, and they know the effects of it. But it's up to them to want to stop it or to treat it."

"It starts at home and then goes from there," said Lynn Turner.

"My parents pushed that on me."

But Dr. Rachel Kassner, past president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., said calling obesity a disease could have its uses.

"I'm comfortable with it as being an illness, and it may lead to more aggressive intervention," said Kassner.

But treatment, she said, is only part of solving the problem, she said. Education must play a key part in having a healthy population.

"What we can do is maybe start running programs in school, educating about food preparation, about healthy eating, making it possible for people to get good food," she said.

The American Medical Association said handling obesity as an illness will urge physicians and insurance companies to get obese people into urgent treatment.

Kassner said the AMA's vote could open up a discussion among medical professionals in Canada. The Canadian Medical Association doesn't have an official position on obesity, but has said the medical community already treats it as a disease.

For mobile device users: Do you believe obesity is a disease?