Navigating Healthcare – Patient Safety and Personal Healthcare Management

Obesity Prevention – Why are we Failing

Posted in Healthcare Information, Nutrition, Preventative Healthcare by drnic on January 31, 2009

In one of the McKinsey interviews of 2008 with Toby Cosgrove CEO of the Cleveland clinic that focused on innovation item 1 in the list of things that need to be done he stated:

The first is prevention. The only thing we can do to reduce costs, while still improving quality, is to reduce the burden of disease. Forty percent of the premature deaths in the United States are caused by obesity, inactivity, and smoking, all of which ought to be preventable. Two-thirds of the country is overweight and a third is obese. Over the decades I have operated on a lot of patients with lung cancer, and every one of them was a smoker. So a natural starting point is to help people stop smoking and help them lose weight.

It might seem obvious but given the shocking statistics it clearly is not. It is a wonder why society as a whole has not managed to face up to this reality and change behavior adopting a more healthy life style. Hats off to the Cleveland clinic for “walking the talk” as he put it and they:

“stopped hiring smokers”

They received a lot of criticism and no doubt some attempts to combat this with law suits but have stood their ground. I can’t tell you the number of times I have entered a clinical facility through a back entrance past a line of employees, often still in surgical scrubs, smoking. It looks bad and as recently as yesterday I watched with disgust in what I see as concomitant behavior as one smoker tossed the still smoldering remainder butt onto the ground and walked off back into the facility – littering to boot.

But why is it that we still have according to paper prepared by Olivia Thornton, a high school graduate investigating the “Genetics vs. Social and Environmental causes of Obesity” do we still have over 30% of adults in the US obese and a tripling of of number of children who are obese since 1980. The problem is getting worse not better

according to the Center for Disease control (CDC,) 16%, over nine million people aged 6-11 are overweight

And it would be easy for other countries to sit back smugly and remain unconcerned but as the chart below shows this problem is worldwide and all the statistics suggest getting worse:

We are bombarded with adverts and marketing messaging to buy fast food and the circumstance and behavior reminds me of the sale and marketing of cigarettes and tobacco years ago. At that time people knew no better – turns out the tobacco companies did and even used the data to help create a more addictive product by adding and concentrating nicotine in their product. Years later the truth emerged and their complicit behavior was exposed and they have had their hands slapped.

We know that fast food is bad for us and parents around the world try hard ot encourage healthy eating. But I bet that many parents experiences are similar to my own that a home cooked ham burger just “doesn’t taste as good as a #insert favorite fast food brand hamburger here#”.

Here’s my jaundiced view of the problem and the fast food industry. They load everything up with sugar, its added to everything and they do this because sugar is addictive. If they add enough sugar they create an addict relationship with their consumers who find anything without the added sugar bland and unappealing.

Time will tell but it is hard to imagine why the addition of sugar is necessary and I have a hard time explaining the preference of my own family for fast food over better, more healthy and nutritious home cooked equivalents.

What do you think. Is it just my family that prefer fast food or do you have the same problems. Is it a conspiracy of the food industry or is the food industry just better at preparing tasty food. Let me know what you think.


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