Michelle Javian – Founder of Harboring Hearts

Michelle_Javian

Dr. Michael Omidi profiles an everyday hero, Michelle Javian, who has founded an organization that provides aid to families struggling to manage when a loved one suffers from a major cardiac event.

When a family member suffers from a serious medical event, it is often extremely difficult for family members to cope with peripheral needs.  If a loved one requires the care of specialists that aren’t located within reasonable distance, the family must then find a means of transportation for the patient, accommodations for themselves, food and possibly child care.  Time taken off work might further impede their ability to pay these costs.  Michelle Javian underwent a similar experience when her own father had a heart attack, and subsequently spent two years in and out of hospitals.[1]

Although Javian and her family lived close to the hospital where her father received his treatment, many other families she encountered in the waiting rooms did not live a convenient distance.  Some couldn’t afford to stay in hotels, and had to sleep in the waiting rooms and bathe in public lavatories.  It was this experience that inspired Javian to found Harboring Hearts, an organization that helps families of patients suffering from serious heart disease.

Harboring Hearts helps to fund childcare, meals, hotel rooms and transportation; things that struggling families aren’t able to cover due to their emergency circumstances.  Moreover, depending on the situation, Harboring Hearts can also help pay outstanding bills that the families cannot afford due to extraneous expenses and possibly having to stop working.  The Emergency Support Program offers aid in the form of assistance grants[2].

Harboring Hearts also has a Community Support Program, which offers more than 2,500 patients’ families help with coping with the enormity of their situations.

Since Harboring Hearts was founded in 2009, the organization has covered over $150,000 in expenses for families.  Moreover, the nonprofit hosts events where families who have endured similar trials can get together.

Javian’s father passed away in 2008.  Harboring Hearts is Javian’s way of serving both her father’s memory and her community.

We are inspired by everyday people’s efforts to turn heartrending situations into vehicles of hope and support for others.  Michelle Javian, although frightened and heartbroken by her father’s ordeal, managed to open up her awareness to other people in her immediate environs in similar circumstances, and develop a valuable resource that has succeeded in giving relief to hundreds of families.  He hope that others are inspired by her efforts, and that she and her organization continue to make their community stronger.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Dunn, Meghan: A lifeline for families hit by heart disease CNN.com 5/29/2014 http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/29/health/cnnheroes-javian/index.html

[2] http://www.harboringhearts.org/

Obesity in Pets & How We Can Help

obese_pets

Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the pet obesity epidemic and different tools we can use to help us slim our chubby pets down.

It is estimated that approximated 60 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that our pets are similarly un-fit, as well.[1]

We can blame our overeating and sedentary lifestyles for our dogs’ and cats’ expanding waistlines, but should our animals bear the brunt of the potential health risks?  It may be difficult for us to change our eating patterns and levels of activity, but that certainly shouldn’t extend to what our pets eat and their ability to exercise.

Many pet owners view their pets as being animated stuffed animals; they feed them and cuddle them, but do not bat an eyelash when they start getting so chubby that they no longer walk, but waddle.  There are YouTube videos of rotund cats sitting in Barcalounger-like postures that we are meant to think are funny, but these are dangerously sick animals.

Not only is their obesity a threat to their health and longevity, fat animals are just uncomfortable and unhappy.  Their ability to jump and climb is compromised; they have trouble lying down and sleeping comfortably and the excess weight causes chronic pain to the joints.

It is far easier to maintain an already pet fit than it is to encourage a pet to lose weight.  So, how can we slim our pets down?  Here are a few tips for making sure your pet is as fit and healthy as possible.

Take your pet to the vet.  Many pet owners do not think about preventative medical care for their pets, but providing once or twice-yearly visits to the vet could help stave off potentially serious medical issues.  Your vet will evaluate your overweight pet and help to determine what sort of diet would be best for your pet’s lifestyle.

Do not feed your pet “human” food.  Yes, when we have leftover table scraps, we feel as though it would be a waste to throw them away and not give them to our dogs or cats, but doing so just isn’t good for them.  Human food contains a huge amount of fat and sodium, and could possibly also contain flavoring agents – dried onion and garlic – that are toxic to dogs.

Exercise your pet.  Yes, you can take a dog for a walk or a run, play ball, Frisbee or take her to a dog park and let her romp with the other pooches, but what about cats?  You can’t very well put a cat on a leash and take him for a stroll (well, you can, but they tend to rebel).  If you are the owner of a chubby house cat, you can help build up his strength fitness by buying some toys – soft balls, mice on sticks or climbing furniture – that encourage play and hunting instincts.

While it may be difficult to cope with our own overweight or obese status, we should at least make sure our pets don’t have to suffer from the same discomforts that we do.  Furthermore, dog owners have an automatic exercising facilitator – if you want to keep yourself and your dog slim, go for long and vigorous walks.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Burns, Zak: Our relationships with pets might be to blame for their growing obesity problem MYNorthwest.com 5/16/2014 http://mynorthwest.com/11/2522370/Our-relationships-with-pets-might-be-to-blame-for-their-growing-obesity-problem

Audrey Guth – Founder of the Nanny Angel Network

audrey_guth

Dr. Michael Omidi spotlights Audrey Guth, the founder of the nonprofit organization the Nanny Angel Network, a charity that provides childcare to mothers diagnosed with breast cancer.

A diagnosis of breast cancer is a life-altering, heart breaking event; not only for the patient herself, but for her family and loved ones.  For women with young children, this diagnosis is especially worrisome, since the disease and the treatments can render childcare extremely taxing.

Audrey Guth, a breast cancer survivor and mother herself, recognized these difficulties as she was waiting in a health center lobby and saw mothers who were waiting for treatment for their breast cancer with young children on their laps.  She realized that these women needed a resource that would make their recovery easier, and the idea for the Nanny Angel Network was born.[1]

The Nanny Angel Network is a Canadian nonprofit organization that provides childcare to mothers undergoing treatments for breast cancer.  Because many women cannot afford ongoing child care during their treatments, they are forced to bring their young children to the medical center while they receive their chemotherapy.  Medical centers are notorious for being hot zones for infection, and young children with as-yet undeveloped immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

During the course of treatment, many mothers are in no condition to look after young, energetic kids.  Aggressive chemotherapy and repeated surgeries can clearly take a giant physical and emotional toll on a patient’s health, and her recovery is certainly compromised if she is constantly worrying about her children’s day-to-day needs.  The Nanny Angel Network tries to offset some of those worries by offering free in-home childcare services.  Since the organization was founded in 2008, more than 300 mothers have received aid.

Almost half of the mothers in the Nanny Angel Network are single parents, and 42 percent have children younger than three years of age.

The Nanny Angel Network employs volunteers who are professional childcare workers and often cancer survivors themselves.  The volunteers are trained to provide safe, comprehensive and engaging care in the children’s own home.  Furthermore, they are able to recognize and cope with emotional and behavioral disorders that could either stem from or have become accelerated by the mother’s cancer diagnosis.

The typical cancer treatment duration is 38 weeks, and the Nanny Angel Network volunteers stay with their clients for every step.  Recently, the organization broadened its reach to include end of life services so that the mother can achieve some measure of comfort upon receiving the news that the illness is terminal.

Although the Nanny Angel Network cannot treat breast cancer, it does provide comfort to women who are likely going through the most traumatic event in their lives.  We at Civic Duty applaud the work of Audrey Guth, and hope that her work and the Nanny Angel Network inspires the introduction of similar programs to the United States and the world.  Breast cancer can shatter lives, but it is extremely heartening to know that these volunteers are on call to help put them back together again as best they can.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Calhoun, Melissa: ‘Mary Poppins’ for moms who have cancer CNN.com 3/27/2014 http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/27/world/cnnheroes-guth/index.html

In the Spotlight: Mario Carpino

Mario_Carpino

Dr. Michael Omidi spotlights Mario Carpino, a young man who has raised over $100K for childhood cancer research while suffering from chronic and inoperable brain tumors.

A diagnosis of childhood cancer is beyond frightening, and yet one young patient has managed to channel his energies into raising money for pediatric cancer awareness in honor of his friends, many of whom have tragically succumbed to the horrible disease.  In the following article,

Childhood cancer’s youngest advocate is also one of the most inspiring and dedicated.  10-year-old Mario Carpino has himself battled cancer since the age of four, yet for the past three years he’s hosted fundraisers for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, an organization that sponsors pediatric cancer research.  To date, he has helped raise $150,000 for charity.[1]

The original idea for Alex’s Lemonade Stand began in 2000, when founder Alexandra Scott, a 4-year-old cancer patient, told her parents she wanted to set up a lemonade stand to raise money for a cure for cancer.  In a single day her lemonade stand raised $2,000.  Soon, other kids and young cancer patients were opening their own lemonade stands and giving the proceeds to Alex’s cause.  At the time of Alex’s death in 2004 at the age of only 8-years-old, her lemonade stand and those of the affiliates had raised more than $1 million.  The foundation was created in her honor in 2005.

In honor of Alex Scott and her foundation, Mario Carpino began hosting events in 2011.  His own struggle with brain tumors and his friendships with other young cancer patients fueled his drive to contribute to this wonderful cause.

Mario has had to endure chemotherapy treatments for numerous inoperable brain tumors for the past six years – over half of his entire life – and yet is incredibly active in raising awareness for cancer research.  According to his friends and family, the young man is always a bundle of energy, thinking up new fundraising ideas for the foundation.  And those ideas have sometimes yielded big results.

In 2011, Mario’s fundraising goal for Alex’s Lemonade Stand was $5,000; he ended up raising over $25,000.  In 2013, his event goal was $50,000, and he wound up raising nearly $70,000.

The next fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand will be June 7, and it is to be hosted by the Woolwich Fire Department in Swedesboro, New Jersey.

Mario was first diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors in 2007; his parents were told that the boy only had 3 months to live.  However, young Mario’s determination and family and friend support network have helped him overcome that original time frame, and as of Mario’s last round of chemotherapy in 2012, Mario’s tumors, while still detectible, are nonetheless stable.

This little boy’s struggle and his devotion to his cause are tremendously inspirational to us at Civic Duty, and we hope that his efforts are duly rewarded, and that he continues to lead a rich, healthy and happy life.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Mosbergen, Dominique: Meet The 10-Year-Old Boy With Cancer Whose Lemonade Stands Have Raised $150,000 For Charity Huffington Post 4.23.2014  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/mario-carpino-lemonade-stand-cancer_n_5200630.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

Factors That Have Led America to Gain Weight

bad_food_pyramid

Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the factors that have led us to systematically gain weight over the past few decades.

Although the ramifications of childhood obesity are becoming clearer and clearer with every passing year, we, as a nation, are still flummoxed when it comes to addressing it in a meaningful way.  We know that obese children are statistically very likely to suffer from preventable and chronic illnesses when they get older, and yet we are nonetheless seduced by the ease and convenience of foods and activities that only contribute to the problem.  According to a recent study, a child’s likelihood that he or she will struggle with obesity as a teenager or adult is determined by the age of 5 years.

Fast foods, processed foods and other convenience foods are all viewed as being essential in our day-to-day lives.  Since most of us are largely not able to source our foods directly from farms or farmers markets, and we moreover do not have the time or inclination to prepare our foods from scratch, we lean on sustenance that we can access quickly and easily, with minimum preparation.  Unfortunately, the foods that satisfy us the most are the foods that serve us the lease.

We cannot rely upon marketing to help us make the better choices, either.  Foods that are ostensibly healthier and have a higher nutritional content are often loaded with sugars.  If you scrutinize the labels of seemingly innocuous foods, you are likely to find ingredients prefaced with the phrase “high fructose,” or in a more wholesome guise, like “evaporated cane juice.”   Unless you cook all of your foods without processed ingredients of any kind, and abjure prepared beverages, there is no way to accurately determine the amount of sugar you consume in a day.

Our activity levels have deteriorated as well.  We are a nation of automobile transport – we use our cars to get to destinations only a few fractions of a mile away.  While our level of exercise has been on the decline for decades, with the internet making it possible to purchase items that were once only accessible from remote locations, we are even less inclined to leave our homes than we were even in the heyday of catalogs.

In an effort to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into our increasing dependence on communications tools, there have been numerous applications dedicated to aiding us with our fitness and weight loss goals.  There are even children’s video games that have been developed specifically for the purpose of engaging the entire body.  However, it isn’t clear if supplementary activities tied to digital media are actually successful in helping us to become more active.  Yes, there are apps designed to help us work out efficiently and eat well, but if we are so tied to our computers, are we really going to be inclined to just get out and experience the world in a personal and healthy way?

What will the future bring us in terms of our health and wellness?  Medical innovations are focused on fixing dangerous medical problems, but we don’t address our health in a meaningful way.  As we become more and more intertwined with communications technology, and as we are becoming an economy of haves and have-nots, we are very likely going to fracture into vastly different fitness categories – the very fit and the very unhealthy.  We have to develop a strategy that can be adopted across cultures and economic strata that will help to move us toward a fitter and healthier future.

By Michael Omidi

Researchers Say Childhood Obesity Costs $19,000 Per Child

moneyimage

Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that looking at total lifetime medical costs, childhood obesity costs $19,000 more than lifetime costs for normal weight children.

The researchers were led by Eric Andrew Finkelstein, PhD, MHA, from the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, publish their results in the journal Pediatrics. [1]

“Reducing childhood obesity is a public health priory that has substantial health and economic benefits,” said Finkelstein. “These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset.”

When the research team multiplied the $19,000 by the number of obese 10 year olds in the US, researchers found that the lifetime costs for that age group alone was as high as $14 billion.

It’s not just the costs added on from childhood obesity, obesity itself is linked to a number of diseases and health problems, from cardiovascular disease to type 2 diabetes and even some cancers, making obesity a major health problem for the population.

There was also an estimated lifetime cost for normal weight children who become obese in adulthood, that was estimated to be $12,900 per person.

Even though the lifetime costs are quite shocking, there are limitations to the study as that researchers only accounted direct medical costs for obesity in their analysis lie doctor’s visits and medication.  Not taking into the account of indirect costs, such as an increase of cost in the amount of food bought and lost productivity in working adults, thus they concluded that much more research is needed.

“While the cost estimates are significant,” said Finkelstein “the motivation to prevent childhood obesity should be there regardless of the financial implications.”

 

By Michael Omidi

 

Sources:

[1] Finkelstein, Lifetime Direct Medical Costs of Childhood Obesity http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/04/02/peds.2014-0063.abstract

Marie Ellis, ‘Childhood obesity costs $19,000 per child,’ researchers say. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275109.php

New Studies Indicate Exercise Inhibits Macular Degeneration a.k.a. Vision Loss

Strong-Eye

Exercise is excellent for physical health, without question, but we are only beginning to learn the extent to which we can benefit from regular physical activity.  Dr. Michael Omidi discusses new studies that indicate exercise could inhibit macular degeneration, as we grow older.

The more we learn about exercise, the more beneficial effects we find exercise can bestow.  Certainly, regular physical activity can boost the metabolic rate, help us to manage our weight, increase healthy muscle mass and strengthen our bones.  However, there are studies that have found that exercise can also boost our memory and learning capabilities and possibly stave off dementia. Now, a recent study has found that exercise might help our vision as we age.[1]

A 2009 observational study found that of 40,000 long distance runners who were middle-aged and older had few incidences of macular degeneration, but the study failed to follow comparable non-runners and collect any data, so no useful conclusions could be drawn based upon the subjects’ physical activity.  The study inspired a recent project by researchers from the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center in Decatur, Georgia, and Emory University in Atlanta, which sought to study the effect of exercise on retinal neurons and the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (B.D.N.F.) in laboratory mice.

B.D.N.F. helps neurons in the brain and eyes retain their health and strength.  It has been theorized that B.D.N.F. is activated by regular exercise, helping neurons in the brain and allowing for improved cognition.  This being the case, it stands to reason that neurons in the retinas could be similarly helped by exercise.

In the study, laboratory mice were divided into two groups, half of which were made to run on small treadmills, while the other half remained sedentary.  After two weeks, both groups of mice were exposed to bright light, which causes retinal neurons to deteriorate rapidly. For another two weeks after the exposure, the mice continued with their prescribed routines – half exercising, half not.

After the trial, the neurons in both sets of mice were measured.  75 percent of the neurons in the sedentary mice had died, but the mice that had exercised had maintained twice the number of surviving neurons.  Moreover, the amount of B.D.N.F. in the active mice was far greater than in the sedentary mice.

The influence of the B.D.N.F. was certainly a factor, because in a follow up study, mice that were made to exercise were injected with a B.D.N.F. inhibitor and then tested.  It was found that their neurons died just as rapidly as the mice that engaged in no exercise.

While the results cannot necessarily be an automatic indicator of how human vision will respond, and the mice’s vision didn’t deteriorate over time, it is definitely a phenomenon worth investigating.  Encouraging people to exercise more and sit around less couldn’t be a bad thing, and it is definitely better than the current invasive retinal restoration techniques available!

By Michael Omidi



[1] Reynolds, Gretchen: Exercising for Healthier Eyes New York Times 3/26/2014 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/exercising-for-eye-health/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=health&_r=0

Childhood Obesity – Teenage Girls & Academic Struggles

obese_teenager

Dr. Michael Omidi discusses new research suggesting that obese adolescent girls tend to earn lower scores on standardized math and language skills tests than girls who are a healthy weight.

The consequences of childhood obesity are numerous. Poor health and low self esteem are just two of the issues stemming from this health catastrophe; it seems that obesity can hinder a child’s ability to function in the classroom.

Childhood obesity has become, sadly, a global crisis, requiring the best efforts of the international medical community in combatting the potentially fatal effects.  Now, it has become clear that obesity is more than just a physical health issue – it can corrupt a child’s ability to function in school.

New research from the United Kingdom suggests that obese teenage girls are more likely to struggle academically than obese boys.  The parameters of the study weren’t specific to British culture, and the researchers concluded that the results would also be applicable to American teenagers, as well.[1]

The report analyzed 6,000 pre-teen and teenage boys’ and girls’ standardized test scores through ages 11, 13 and 16 years.  The researchers found that, on average, girls who were obese by age 11 received lower scores on the math and language skills tests at all three ages studied than the girls who were at a healthy weight at age 11.  The disparity in grades was fairly high – to the extent that the difference could mean a passing or failing grade.

The researchers haven’t uncovered any specific causes for this phenomenon.  It has been speculated that the social trauma of obesity is more acute for girls than it is for boys; boys might not have to endure the same level of social stigma, and can generally be accepted by their peers even if they are overweight or obese.

The ridicule, depression and low self image could have a greater deteriorative effect on the minds of girls, causing them to perform poorly.  The stress of scholastic failure might even trigger behaviors that lead to obesity.  One researcher suggested that the stress of academic failure could trigger the desire for comforting high calorie foods.

There are, of course, other factors that might contribute, as well.  Lack of cardiovascular fitness could lessen concentration, as can lack of proper sleep.  Fat can accelerate the release of stress hormones, which can result in feelings of anxiety, further diminishing the ability to focus.

The fact that there is a correlation between obesity and academic success is highly troubling.  Even if the health risks can be corrected by losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the missed opportunities from poor scholastic performance are actually much more difficult to reverse.

If a child has spent her school years struggling to keep up, she could face a future with fewer chances to succeed professionally.  It is essential that childhood obesity is addressed as early as possible in order to stave off the potential for social decline later in life.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Poon, Linda: Obesity Linked To Lower Grades Among Teen Girls NPR.org 3/11/2014 http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/03/11/289070502/obesity-linked-to-lower-grades-among-teen-girls

Civic Duty’s Co-Founder Dr. Michael Omidi Spotlights the Work of Almamo Fatty

 

welcome-to-baby-friendly-community

One of over 550 Baby Friendly Communities in The Gambia © UNICEF/2013/Gambia/Laura Clark

 

The communities along the Gambia River are among the poorest in the world. Dr. Michael Omidi spotlights the work of Almamo Fatty, a volunteer health worker who works with UNICEF to aid the extremely poor Cha Kunda people of the Central River region of Gambia.

In Gambia along the Central River, small children are subject to diseases and environmental conditions that children in developed nations never have to face.  Mothers and babies are vulnerable to malnutrition, anemia, and a host of other potentially fatal illnesses that would overtake the communities were it not for the efforts of a UNICEF-sponsored clinic, and a health care worker who have made it their mission to keep mothers and babies healthy and thriving.[1]

The Cha Kunda facility is without most of the amenities and equipment we take for granted – office furnishings are spare, the files are kept in boxes and the workers rely primarily on basic hygiene principles and nutrition to combat life-threatening conditions, since drugs and medications are limited, to say the least.  However, Almamo Fatty still works tirelessly to give the poor a chance at health and life with the few tools at his disposal.

One in ten children aren’t expected to live to the age of five years.  The few clinics are too great a distance for many in the community to travel for anything other than urgent care.  Mr. Fatty nonetheless is on call at all hours – travelling hundreds of miles to retrieve life-saving drugs and staying accessible to the families and children.  All of his efforts are volunteer; he receives no salary for his work, and often has to pay the costs of travel and medications himself.

The Cha Kunka region is slowly developing a network of support groups within the different communities so that all villagers have someone with knowledge enough to know when a potential health crisis is emerging.  Mr. Fatty and the support network alert community members of free vaccinations, new healthcare initiatives and infant-care best practices.

The different “Baby Friendly” communities now have, thanks to the efforts of UNICEF and Mr. Fatty, vegetable gardens filled with iron-rich greens (to stave off anemia; a big problem for mothers and children).  Moreover, the group is spreading the word about the benefits of breast feeding as well as simple hand washing.

UNICEF has more than 500 “Baby Friendly” communities throughout the region, but many of the children and families are situated so remotely that babies are always at risk for succumbing to illness and malnutrition.  However, with the efforts of Mr. Fatty and the other network of volunteers and community members, even the most underserved children are given a chance to be healthy.

We at Civic Duty applaud the selfless work of Mr. Fatty, and we hope that his example serves to inspire others to take up his cause and provide the deserving people of this region with a chance at health and happiness.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Andrews, Isabelle: Baby friendly communities: Meeting Gambia’s heroes for children UNICEF UK http://blogs.unicef.org.uk/2014/02/28/baby-friendly-communities-breastfeeding-rural-gambia/

Obesity Rates for Children Drop Yet Rise for Adults

Obesity

Dr. Michael Omdi discusses the recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relating to the obesity rate in the United States.

Childhood obesity is improving in a minor way across the United States, thanks to public initiatives and a national awareness campaign by First Lady Michelle Obama.  However, the adult obesity rate has actually increased, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1]

The exclamation that childhood obesity has declined by 43 percent is true – depending upon how one looks at the data. The decrease that is being lauded is, in reality, among 2-5 year-olds which decreased from 13.9 percent to 8 percent.

The good news is that low income children participating in federal health education, physical education and healthy meal plans seem to be benefiting from the lifestyle changes.  However, it is also possible that this is the result in the typical statistical fluctuations that have been known to occur in the surveyed subjects.  Recent studies that have found that a major predictor of obesity and weight issues in adults is obesity between the ages of 2-5, so if this group experiences a drop in obesity, in the long term, this is the generation that might benefit the most in the sense of struggling with weight the least.

Adults are a different story.  Previous survey years, 2003-2004 and 2009-2010 indicated that the adult obesity rate was at 30 percent – and it still is.  However, among women aged 60 years and older, the rate has increased from 31.5 to 38 percent.

Obesity, which has been classified as a disease by the American Medical Association, seems to merit intervention.  It is a legitimate indicator of potentially fatal health events, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.  Reducing the obesity rate will be a strong step towards lowering and preventing the epidemic of preventable illnesses.  But if the obesity rate statistics are fluctuating and not markedly declining, are the initiatives really working?

Awareness campaigns might have led to the drop in obesity in 2-5 year olds.  The perils of regular consumption of sugary drinks has declined, and the breast feeding rate has gone up.  It is widely believed that artificial behavioral changes – such as new laws and programs targeting eating – do not work.  People rebel; they feel as though their rights are being infringed upon.  However, it is also argued that if the programs enter the culture and last more than a generation, there is the possibility that behaviors are modified in subtle and lasting ways.

So, what about the adults who actually got fatter?  We can only speculate, but there has not been the same flood of public programs geared toward them.  Although calorie listings have become mandatory in many cities, the older we get, the more deeply ingrained our habits become, and lifestyle changes are not typically made unless a major health event forces the issue.

As tempting as it may be to want significant changes to occur overnight, it might not exactly be a societal failure if they do not.  Behavior changes evolve over time, and even though they might not be apparent immediately, incremental shifts can make a big difference.  While we must continue to monitor progress, we have to nevertheless stick to the programs already in place, because abandoning them for several years and then returning to them suddenly will yield no results at all.

By Michael Omidi



[1] Walton, Alice: Still Struggling: U.S. Obesity Rates Largely Unchanged Over Last 10 Years Forbes Magazine 2/26/2014 http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/02/26/still-struggling-u-s-obesity-rates-stalled-over-the-last-10-years/