Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The nutrition battle - time to get tough

As I waited for the Employer Healthcare Conference to start in Chicago this evening, I scanned the local news for health related stories and was immediately rewarded with the information that the first lady visited the city today with a healthcare agenda. The headline reads ‘Michelle Obama is bringing the nutrition battle to Chicago’ and the report went on ‘with a view to eliminating health deserts’.

The VIP guest opened a local Walgreen store, recently expanded to sell produce and grocery staples and took in a tour of an urban farm – 7 acres of inner city land producing health foods. These are both worthy examples of healthy eating initiatives so badly needed in a country with an estimated obesity rate of 40%  (and an ‘overweight’ rate of a jaw dropping 75%) within the next 4 years.

In the UK, we are, of course, facing the same side effect of our ‘civilised society’ and the government has been trying various approaches to not only educate, but also ‘nudge’ the population into healthy eating habits.

But what struck me about today’s story is the language - the ‘nutrition battle’. We are used to hearing about patients ‘battling cancer’ and we read stories about the ‘battling infection’ but this is the first time I have noted the nutrition battle. I think this is spot on. It is a battle. A battle to educate, advise, warn, coach, encourage, bribe, incentivise – do whatever is needed to reduce obesity rates and the dire personal and economic consequences of unhealthy living.

‘Health desert’ is such a new phrase that Google kept giving me results for ‘healthy desserts’ and struggled to come up with a decent selection of links. Part of the first lady’s ‘Let’s move’ campaign – retailers and communities are encouraged to provide healthy food choices within walking distance for all. Another interpretation of ‘health desert’ is the education gap across some sectors of the population regarding vital nutritional understanding.

So – let the war against obesity continue. Tough talking should lead to tough actions. I have no doubt that this battle will be extensively discussed during several sessions at the conference over the next few days and I shall be interested to see just how much, if at all, things have changed from  a corporate wellness perspective since I attended this event last year.


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