The arms of the middle seat were visibly straining outward as Angie negotiated herself into the space that would be hers for the duration of our four-hour, 28-minute flight. She was even more uncomfortable as she tried to wrap the seat belt around herself. The belt was clearly gouging into her flesh when it finally clicked on the fourth try. Angie is obese, a fact that she is reminded of countless times every day. The constrained accommodation of our cross-country plane flight was just one more reminder.
Angie is not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one of every four U.S. adults is obese.1 Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
As I sat next to Angie trying to enjoy what remained of my window seat, I wondered how she came to be so overweight. Was she always this heavy? How did her path to obesity begin? I also thought about the other Angies of the world. There are more than 63 million of them in the U.S. alone.
The medical solutions are less than attractive. Just last month, the French government banned the drug "Mediator" that was being prescribed for diabetes and obesity. An article reporting on the ban stated, "French health officials are saying it may have killed hundreds and offered almost no benefit to patients."2-3 That particular deadly drug was sold in the U.S. under the name "Redux." It was banned here in 1997. In 2000, the drug's maker, American Home Products, agreed to pay $12 billion to settle a major class-action lawsuit. "Individuals harmed by Redux will receive between $5,000 and $1.5 million each, depending on the severity of their Redux-related injuries."4
Can doctors of chiropractic make a difference in this largely self-inflicted epidemic? I believe we can. Clearly a wellness lifestyle combats obesity. Ours is a message of health without the dangers of drugs.
Faced with similar challenges, the country of Aruba has developed a national plan "for the fight against overweight, obesity and related health issues." The reason I focus on Aruba is that its plan to combat obesity was developed by a doctor of chiropractic, Richard W.M. Visser, DC, PhD, Aruba's minister of health and sports.5 He has also met with First Lady Michelle Obama to share his thoughts of how to address these issues in the U.S.6
Dr. Visser and his team conducted research on the health status of the citizens of Aruba, revealing some disturbing trends. The people of Aruba don't eat breakfast enough, eat too few vegetables and fruits, don't drink enough water (and drink too many sugar-sweetened drinks), eat too much junk food or unhealthy food, and don't breast-feed enough.
Sound like many of your patients? Here is what they decided to do about it:
- Promote sufficient physical activity for children and adults to decrease the population's inactivity;
- Promote exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after childbirth;
- Require school cafeterias to comply with the Healthy School System and create a policy on the prevention of the sale of unhealthy food outside and around the schools;
- Examine and advise all school-aged children on BMI and weight each year;
- Promote gym classes for all schools and grades for at least one hour, three times per week;
- Provide weekly health classes; and
- Promote daily breakfast before school.
You too are in a unique position to have conversations with your patients, their family members and friends. As part of your service to your community, you can help them understand the dangers of poor eating habits, lack of balanced nutrition, an inactive lifestyle and being overweight.
You can have conversations with people like Angie (conversations that would be inappropriate for some guy sitting in the seat next to them.) You can have conversations with parents who can intercept children before their situations become chronic and much harder to combat.
Dr. Visser is doing his part to reduce obesity and bring wellness to Aruba. You can and should do the same in your community.
- U.S. Obesity Trends. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- "Diabetes Drug, Mediator, Linked to 500 Deaths, Says France." CBSNews Healthwatch, Nov. 16, 2010. www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20022913-10391704.html
- "500 Deaths Linked to Diabetes Drug Mediator, France. Medical News Today. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/208343.php
- Redux. The Injury Board: Injury LawWiki. http://wiki.injuryboard.com/topic/redux.aspx
- National Plan for Aruba 2009-2018 - For the Fight Against Overweight, Obesity and Related Health Issues. October 2008.
- "Minister Dr. Richard Visser Held Talks With First Lady Consulting Team." July 2, 2010. www.aruba.com
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.