Albert Einstein is quoted to have said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So why is this, a surprise? How many studies do we need? Anyone watching the epidemiology over the last 30 years would see the heat maps going from yellow to orange to red in most part of the United States.
No pun intended, but identifying the 800 pound gorilla in the room is insufficient. Many Americans have grown comfortable with their 800 pound friend. Think of the euphemisms: “love handles”, “pot belly”, etc. We need straight talk, not generalities. We need to tell the diabetic, “Choose blindness, loss of kidney function and stroke or 10 more years of useful life!” Chronic illness is subtle and nasty. It’s about the grim reaper approaching from the future, only to be discovered when it’s too late.
In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is trying to legislate lifestyle behavior by limiting soda consumption to less than 16 ounces a pop. Good luck with that. These are public spectacles. They are distractions. Bloomberg’s actions are like the man on the beach facing the tsunami.
It’s long been established that obesity is a primary driver of chronic illness and disease of all types. It would be far more productive to focus more communications from headline grabbing sensationalism to the action items required to save lives. Children learn from adults so, prevention starts with them. When school age children are spending their health classes fitting condoms to bananas instead of learning what eating habits will kill them, we know we’re in trouble.
Let’s understand the verdict is in. It’s time to move from studies to action. The identification of toxins in food advertised and sold to us would be a great first step. Corporate profit at the expense of our health needs to be shouted out. Major food corporations exploiting our primal yearning for sugar, salt and fat need to be refocused at the top. At the bottom, we need to do a much better job educating our kids similar to how environmental education has created significant awareness about our planet. Even though it takes decades to change large group behavior, it really does happen and the sooner we get started the better!
Adults, even those getting on in years, have a remarkable capacity to manage and in some cases even reverse the effects of poor lifestyle choices made in earlier years. The winning process consists of two basic and natural steps:
- Learn what to do (health literacy)
- Choose to do the right thing (that is, education alone won’t help)
I treat plenty of 50+’s with outstanding results when they commit to the changes we guide them to. And order of benefit, they feel better within a couple of weeks and then they go on to function better and live longer.
For our children, the answer is education, education, education. Education that makes us health literate. Education works. We have proof. Look at government statistics for alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Education initiatives relating to the dangers of alcohol consumption are clearly effective. See Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health below.
It’s all about turning the tide and then being persistent and patient. When you consider the change in alcohol consumption lifestyle, think of how many fatal and maiming traffic accidents were avoided or how fewer sclerosis of the liver patients we have.
The takeaway: the link between health literacy and bottom line results is clear.
Even more striking is reduction of tobacco usage by teenagers between 1965 and 2010.
Dr. James Proodian is a health literacy advocate and public speaker. Read more of his ideas and suggestions at www.proodianhealthcare.com.