Dr. Katz describes how an individual can do their part to help reverse the existing obesity trend.
My view on the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease is we can’t fix parts of it without fixing the whole. In order for people to eat well, we need good food available wherever people and food come together. We need people who are able to identify more nutritious food and by people, I mean kids and adults alike.
We need kids and adults to care about eating more nutritious food. We need everybody to understand the implications that we truly are what we eat and that we have the capacity, were we to apply the knowledge we have right now about lifestyle and health, we could prevent 80% of heart disease, 90% of diabetes, up to 60% of cancer, and although those statistics sound bland to you, think about your life and the people you know.
What if eight of ten of the people you have ever known who have developed heart attack, cancer, diabetes, didn’t? Think about the personal benefit in your own life with this. They are real people out there who would be the beneficiaries of this. So, I am interested in creating programming and policies everywhere we can put them to help get this job done. I think that’s necessary. Part of it is knowledge and awareness.
If you care a lot about your health and you care about the health of your family, you will work harder to get that job done. You will have more will, and will is crucial, but so is way. And while we say, “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” it’s not necessarily true; you really need both. So, it’s crucial that you be aware so that you have the will. We must then pave the way with policies and programs.
I created some years ago a non-profit foundation called “Turn the Tide” dedicated to turning the tide of epidemic obesity and chronic disease, and the metaphor that I use with “Turn the Tide” is a levy and the idea that every program, so “ABC for Fitness”-- a physical activity program that we developed for kids in school. “Nutrition Detectives”–a nutrition education program that we developed for kids in school. “NuVal”–a nutrition guidance system we developed for super markets. “OWCH–Online Weight Management Counseling for Healthcare Providers,” a program we developed to train healthcare providers to counsel better. Every one of these and many others, we have a community-based program of diabetes prevention run through churches.
Every one of these is a sand bag in the levy. What we want to do is not ask for any single program to solve the problems of modern living. We want to recognize that there really is a flood tide of factors into our daily lives that conspire against health. They encourage us to be less physically active than we should be and to overeat.
Frankly, everything about modern living has completely flipped the switch on us. Throughout most of human history, calories were scarce and hard to get,; physical activity was unavoidable. We have devised a world where physical activity is scarce and hard to get,and calories are unavoidable. It’s really no wonder we are having a problem, and it’s a big job to reverse that massive influence, but if we stack enough bags of sand, each little piece of the solution won’t require a great deal of heavy lifting. Yes, you and I and everybody we know will need to bend their back and stack a bag of sand, but just that one, and then let’s have somebody else stack another one.
When we have enough, we will see the tide turn. We will hold back the floodwaters. Our job in the meantime is to do the best we can to build mini-levies around our own families. Be aware, be concerned; in fact, be passionate about the health of yourself and your family.
We use the expression–you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. We have to live that way. We have to really feel that, and there is an awful lot we can do on our own. I think I have my family safely protected behind a levy. It runs right around our house. There’s nothing but nutritious food in our house. Being physically active is the norm in our house.
Everybody can build that levy around their own home, but the work for any one of us will be much less when the whole village gets involved, when everybody stacks bags of sand, and when eating well and being active in school is the norm, when eating well and being active at work sites is the norm, when communities and neighborhoods have opportunities for outdoor recreation, when every neighborhood has sidewalks, and on and on we go, but moving in that direction begins with individual passion.
About Dr. Katz, M.D., M.P.H.:
David L. Katz M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., F.A.C.P., is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health, and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Public Health Practice at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Katz is the Director and founder (1998) of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, Director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital (2000) in Derby, CT, and founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation.