Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is Unhealthy the New Normal?

Obesity rates in America have doubled since 1980. Too many of us lead sedentary and unhealthy lives, and it’s putting us at risk for obesity-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. This knowledge is nothing new, yet every year the obesity epidemic refuses to budge. Is unhealthy the new normal?

That’s the question posed to a panel of physicians and health care experts at TEDMED Austin. The discussion touched on the obstacles Americans, specifically Texans, face in the fight against unhealthy lifestyles. Panelists shared ways they are making a difference in their communities through direct patient care, community programs, and technology.

One Step at a Time

Julie Reardon, MD, spoke about Walk With a Doc, an organization that encourages healthy physical activity in people of all ages by organizing physician-led walks with patients. The walks are an opportunity for physicians to encourage an active lifestyle and answer their patients’ health-related questions in a less intimidating environment. Mostly, it’s a way to get patients moving. “The way we can get from unhealthy to healthy is one step at a time,” said Dr. Reardon.

A Social Movement for a Healthier Life

“We as a society do not adequately value health,” said Baker Harrell, CEO and founder of It’s Time Texas, a movement that seeks to empower Texans to lead healthier lives and build healthier communities. “The obesity epidemic is a symptom of a societal crisis, and the only solution is societal change,” said Mr. Harrell. He spoke of his own experience as an unhealthy child, and how by making the decision to become healthy he wound up transforming his community into a healthier, fitter place as well.

Stopping Childhood Obesity

When it comes to encouraging children to lead a healthy life, “be nice, and be patient,” said pediatrician Stephen Pont, MD, MPH, medical director at the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity at Dell Children’s Medical Center. “The blame and shame game doesn’t motivate people, it only makes them feel worse.”

Dr. Pont said a great way to get kids moving again is to tap into their interests and their natural enthusiasm. If children love videogames, “find a way to bring movement into technology.” If faith is an important part of their family life, “find a way to embrace health of the body as well as the soul and the spirit,” he said.

1 comment :

jamesbond007 said...

Thank you for sharing this topic of discussion at #TEDMEDAustin. Great suggestions to engage patients to make a behavioral change to attack a sedentary lifestyle.

I wished this article would have given the obstacles Americans, specifically Texans, face in the fight against an unhealthy lifestyle. Here’s my short list of obstacles:

Technology (TV, games consoles, and mobile devices)
Cultural dietary background
Social economic characters that drive food choices
Generational bad eating habits
Community stores that offer poor eating choices

I envision communities that are a synergy of community stores that offer healthier eating options at a price point that reflects the communities’ economic status. Community outreach programs that shows the community how-to prepare healthier options that mimics their taste and visual experience. Lastly, incorporate these article ideas into the community and continue to share with others in the community with the same passion to change “ Is Unhealthy the New Normal”.

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