Tuesday, December 26, 2006
How do I get people to care about obesity?
One of my professors in medical school once told me that being overweight or obese is linked to just about every chronic disease there is out there. It seemed to make sense, because heart disease and strokes are pretty well linked, as is diabetes. Those are the most common chronic diseases. In addition, diseases such as degenerative arthritis as well as cholelithiasis (gall bladder disease) and gout are also associated with obesity. Today, the American Cancer Society definitively added another one to the list - prostate cancer.
After studying 70,000 men for more than a decade, researchers concluded that not only does carrying around extra weight increase your risk of prostate cancer, it increases the likelihood of developing the most aggressive or high-grade forms of prostate cancer. In case you are wondering what a little extra weight means - generally, a 5-foot-10-inch man who weighs 180 pounds is considered overweight, and if he weighs 220 pounds, he is obese. A quick point of clarification though: Those numbers are based on the body mass index scale, which is by no means a perfect scale. And I am not just saying that because I have added a few pounds over the years... Still, the message is clear: My professor was right and obesity is linked to just about everything.
The struggle I have when reporting these stories is giving our viewers a take-away message. My guess is that most people already know that they should lose some weight. And, if they are like nearly 80 percent of Americans, losing weight will be a part of their New Year's resolutions. Still, I am not sure a story about prostate cancer and obesity will even make an impression on a typical viewer, because so many have seemingly accepted that America has become an overweight nation. What do you think it will take to start sending a message that actually provokes action when it comes to our waistline and our health?
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