Americans can end their obesity crisis if they'll change a long
series of decisions they make every day, a panel of doctors and health
executives concluded Friday.
For most people, that's choosing to
eat well and exercise, but for business and government, the choices
include how to reward employees for doing the right thing or where to
put housing and parks.
The Partnership for a Healthy America is holding a nationwide series of roundtable discussions on childhood obesity, and Nashville's included the group's honorary vice chair, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Frist, a surgeon, started the conversation by talking about how much various influencing factors play into overall health.
are 20 percent or more, socioeconomic status 15 percent, environment 5
percent -- but the biggest power may lie in combining health-care
services at 15 percent and behavior at 40 percent.
doctors may not be prepared to coach patients on weight loss, but
they're the most trusted source of information, so they can pair
patients with appropriate coaches to work on behavior.
issue that has the potential of destroying much of the greatness of
America," Frist said. "That's how serious I think it is."
Shari Barkin, a pediatric obesity researcher at Vanderbilt University,
offered an example of how training shifted behavior. A Vanderbilt
program taught 100 Latino families how to find the best food and
exercise opportunities in their neighborhoods. They met for 90 minutes
once a week for 12 weeks.
"This was about making the automatic choice, the healthy choice," Barkin said.
year later, 75 percent who participated still took their families to
city parks and recreation centers for exercise. That's important because
some studies show Latino children in America are twice as likely to be
obese as white children.
'A big opportunity'
government decisions have a health component, said Dr. Bill Paul, Metro
Nashville's health director. "Housing, food, transportation policy --
it's a big opportunity for the generations ahead of us," he said.
Frist said the nation is waking up to the realities of its problem.
seeing some flattening (in obesity rates)," he said. "Is it because we
can't get any more obese? We don't know. But for people who say this
problem can't be solved, I don't buy it. It is reversible."