While it’s true that public health officials claim a victory of sorts over smoking in the past couple of decades (granted, it’s no longer cool to smoke), we still have over 440,000 smoking related deaths annually in the US to this day. As a matter of fact that’s more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. So this victory of sorts is a relative one at best.
Over the past decade these same public health experts have taken aim at America’s new, number one health threat, obesity. And guess what. They’ve modeled their strategy after their “successful” smoking cessation campaign.
Like its predecessor, the environmental approach consists of heavy doses of Public Service Announcements, publicity campaigns from large corporate interests, celebrity involvements (designed to raise awareness and share the vision), and infinite numbers of academic studies which point fingers at multiple culprits. All this has collectively portrayed obesity as an extremely complex and an expensive problem to resolve.
Passive Products VS Active Agents
Generally known as the “environmental approach” to obesity prevention/reduction, it begins with the premise that most individuals are passive products of their environment, as opposed to active agents who mold and shape their own environments. And as passive products, most individuals are easily influenced, molded, and shaped by media based indoctrinations (advertising campaigns), celebrity advocacy, colorful flyers, and posters that encourage people to eat better and exercise more. Interestingly enough the fast food industry is built on the same premise but it aims for the opposite results.
Environmental approach proponents have gone so far as to discourage vending machines full of junk foods and sugary drinks in school hallways (much to the dismay of booster clubs and PTA’s who financially depend on their presence). They’ve tried to help improve school lunch menus, despite dwindling educational budgets that favor junk food over legitimate nutrition. They endorse more PE while teachers are being laid off and non essential (unaffordable) programs are being cut right and left. And ironically, they’ve spent billions and billions in the process, but achieved very little.
Then to Really Complicate Matters…
And finally, to complicate matters even further, environmental approach proponents have christened Body Mass Index (BMI) as their measurement tool of choice, despite BMI’s very well documented accuracy problems. As the result, environmental proponents are able to prove almost nothing when it comes to judging the success or failure of any BMI based anti-obesity campaign.
For example, in the words of CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, “While the CDC cannot prove that programs like these are making a difference, it’s obvious that something has changed.” According to First Lady Michelle Obama “Today’s announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life.” Most scientists cringe at this level of “proof.”
Accuracy and Motivational Problems
But BMI not only has accuracy problems. It has motivation problems too due to its abstract character and infrequent feedback it provides. Actually in many instances BMI has proven to be counter motivational for kids whose fragile, developing self esteem bubbles are burst when they’re told that they are overweight or obese. Then to realize that such a statement is based on a metric that’s completely unable to distinguish between body fat and muscle mass (the only two factors that count in obesity) is disgusting.
Inexpensive VS Extremely Expensive
BMI’s one saving grace is that it’s inexpensive to implement on the front end. But despite its lack of implantation cost on the front end, BMI has proven extremely expensive on the back end due to its failure to resolve the problem that’s been building now for over three decades. In fact according to the Association of Actuaries, obesity and related problems costs the US over $270 billion annually. Yes, it’s that expensive!
What Are They Thinking?
With that said, if the environmental approach sounds like a monumental disaster, an exercise in futility, a recipe for failure, you would have your eyes wide open and you would be coming to a very logical conclusion.
Even the most respected public health experts speculate (they certainly don’t know) that using these tools it will take a generation before we get any kind of handle on the obesity plague that’s undermining future generations. After all, this is very complicated, right?
And if that handle looks anything like the “success” they’ve had in motivating people to stop smoking, you might wonder what in the world these experts are thinking. You might even begin to wonder if they want to solve the problem, or complicate it so the profits generated from it keep on flowing. Those would be excellent questions to ask.
A Functional Option That Actually Works
But for anyone who refuses to buy into the environmental approach and who’d prefer to solve the problem, with real documented evidence starting immediately, there is a simple strategy that’s been proven to work. It’s known as Operation Pull Your Own Weight and its measurement tool of choice is known as a FORE Score.
Its implementation costs are the same as BMI on the front end, but it’s simple, tangible, accurate, and it motivates kids to do the things they need to do in order to beat obesity for life. If you’d like to give this option a little consideration check out the PYOW website and while you’re at it, check out the FORE Score concept. You’ll be glad you did.