Michelle Obama has adopted the overcoming of childhood obesity as her special project, which may turn out to be helpful, or not. We will see why in a minute. In any case, there is no doubt of the First Lady’s good intentions, nor does anyone question the good intentions of millions of adults who have finally wakened from a daze, to a world where grossly overweight children are a common sight. Parents, counselors, health workers are all concerned. Even the generals are worried. What we need to do next is to make sure that our good intentions translate into effective action.
That is where the IBM study comes into the picture — the one where the researchers are feeding the lifestyle variables about obese kids into a computer, in an attempt to pin down some of the common factors. In her Wall Street Journal Health Blog, Katherine Hobson gives a succinct and tantalizing preview of what the scientists are up to:
[IBM] will put computer models to work analyzing the reams of available data on the different factors that might affect obesity — things such as consumer behavior, the location of grocery stores, the availability of physical activity facilities and even community transportation options — and see how those factors interact.
The part about the availability of transportation in the community is making us nervous. Yes, children need more exercise, but what if somebody gets the bright idea of using that as a reason to cut public transportation even more? In a lot of places, mass transport is already in dire straits. When there are even fewer ways to get around, the lives of, for instance, many transportationally-disenfranchised senior citizens will be disastrously impacted, and that would be a shame. We call such things unintended consequences, and they lurk around every well-intentioned corner.
What surprises might follow, for instance, the forbidding of highly pleasurable foods in schools? The goodies in the school store, pictured on this page, glitter and beckon like the contents of Ali Baba’s treasure cave. What happens when they are removed? In many places, school administrators are chagrined by the flocks of food-concession trucks that park right outside the fence.
A school in Australia reports that its own “crackdown” resulted in roving crowds of kids heading for the local stores during lunch break, which the authorities would rather they did not. Similarly, in Scotland, according to Fiona Macleod,
New rules introduced to make school meals healthier have resulted in tens of thousands of Scottish pupils consuming a worse diet, it has been claimed.
Dr. Pretlow Gets Around!
KGO Radio host Joanie Greggains calls this “one of [her] best shows ever,” as she introduces Dr. Pretlow and Overweight: What Kids Say. The interview can be heard via this mp3 file, if you wish to download it, and we’ll give a couple of highlights here.
Dr. Pretlow talks about how he first formulated the notion of using the Internet, with its built-in anonymity option, to encourage kids to bare their secret souls. “Kids could be stunningly honest about their weight problem,” he realized, thus striking the motherlode of truly helpful information. “It’s really rough being an overweight kid,” he reasoned.
Everybody in these kids’ environment bestows “solutions” on them, then walks away — job done. The object here is not to blame parents, teachers, legislators or health care pros, but to enlighten them about, for instance, food addiction, and the usefulness of actually listening to kids, rather than making decrees or dishing out shame. Yes, we all know that the cause of being fat is eating too much of the wrong things. Yawwwwn. It’s time to look at the causes of the cause, and address them.
Bonus: Freakishly Astonishing Pictures!
From Men’s Health comes this remarkable slideshow, where each of 20 popular drinks is posed cuddled up against a heap of junk food that represents its caloric equivalent. You will be amazed! No, really — this is gross!
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “How IBM Aims to Tackle Childhood Obesity,” The Wall Street Journal Health Blog, 05/06/10
Source: “Crackdown on fatty and unhealthy snacks in state schools a farce,” HeraldSun.com.au, 05/26/10
Source: “Healthy-food rules at school ‘send pupils sprinting to fast food joints’,” Scotsman.com, 05/18/10>
Source: “KGO Radio Interview” (MP3), Weigh2Rock, 05/10
Source: “20 Worst Drinks in America 2010,” Men’s Health Eat This, Not That, 06/10
Image of school store from Weigh2Rock.com, used under Fair Use: Reporting.