Thursday, May 17, 2012

One Person At A Time

The release of the Institute of Medicine's report last week about obesity and the airing of HBO's The Weight of the Nation the past two nights have created quite a bit of hoopla. Both associated reports have highlighted the growing epidemic of obesity in our country and the pressing need for a solution.

This morning at 5 AM, I watched two hours of the HBO show and was delighted by its even-handedness. The facts were presented in a non-sensationalistic fashion and flowed nicely, so if you haven't seen the show yet, I encourage you to do so.

For me, there was an immediate take-away from the individual stories of struggle and success that were reported. The take-away was that everyone had a unique story and everyone needed help to lose weight. Yet, despite this underlying theme, other than a discussion with a bariatric surgeon, there were no specific recommendations to seek such help. Suggestions were given to exercise more, eliminate certain foods like fruit juices and soda from one's diet, etc.;  but, never once was it stated that one seek consultation with a nutritionist or health psychologist. Neither were there any suggestions to discuss your weight problem with your physician, nor your difficulty, for whatever reason, to get the exercise you need, with a fitness trainer.

Ultimately, the show commits the cardinal error of simply telling people the oft repeated advice to eat better, exercise more, become more mindful, etc. If it were that simple to lose weight and modify one's lifestyle, there would be no obesity epidemic and 68% of Americans would not be overweight.

True, our country as a whole has a collective weight problem that merits the closest attention. But the problem can only be solved one patient at a time. I'm sorry to beat this horse to death, but the type of help people need can often not be determined by the individual alone. As I've said before, patients who are their own doctors, or what I call Doctients, have a fool for a doctor.

That is why I believe, when it comes to a weight problem, that a 360 degree assessment, provided by a primary care practitioner, registered dietitian/nutritionist, health psychologist, and fitness trainer is the best approach. That is why before we opened MDPrevent, before we had even a single patient, we hired all these professionals to be on hand full-time so that every and any patient who would benefit from their assistance could immediately access it.

While the sum of the parts means that the weight of our nation is a pressing, perhaps even the defining problem of this generation, the solution can ultimately only be accomplished by interventions geared to helping one person at a time.

I hope someone is listening, but if not, I'll raise my voice even louder. This nation's weight problem will not go away on its own and neither will I.

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