Thursday, January 04, 2007
Veterans Fight Fat
As you probably know, I am on a kick about obesity in this country. One of the reasons I entered television journalism was that I thought it was too easy to sit on the sideline and complain. It was too easy to resign myself to watching a nation that used to be one of the most fit, robust and vibrant in the world gradually become one of the most obese. I wanted to do more than simply talk: I wanted to try and educate as many people as I could. Truth be told, I am optimistic that we can reverse this trend.
So, here's another good opportunity to raise awareness, and possibly your ire, about something related to obesity. Get this: If you are a U.S. military vet, you've got a better chance of being diabetic than just about any other part of the population. The reason is that most veterans are overweight. In fact, almost 75 percent of male veterans are considered overweight or obese. That percentage is higher than among the general public. In fact, when I searched a little harder, I discovered that it is higher than overweight and obese rates in Native Americans (73.9 percent), Hispanics (72.7 percent) and whites (72.5 percent). It appears, according to a study of nearly 2 million patients who were treated at 136 Veteran Affairs medical centers, our U.S. veterans are the most overweight and obese of any group in the country. Our veterans.
I was surprised by that. I always imagined that a rigorous military training and associated boot camps would create lifelong habits that would fend off obesity and the countless chronic diseases associated with it. It appears that is not the case. It is true that the VA hospitals are trying to do their part. Any overweight veteran who visits a VA doctor gets referred to MOVE. It is a program to get veterans to start eating healthier, become more physically active and start focusing on those behaviors that led them to obesity in the first place.
It is hard to say whether it will be enough. As much money as we spend on body armor, gas masks and firepower, the biggest enemy of all may have been the fatty food we have served our military men and women and the sedentary lifestyle they live once they retire. So, if we are optimistic we can reverse this trend. What would you recommend to better care for our veterans? And, whose responsibility is it?
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