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War On Obesity: Part 17

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

In a War on Obesity the media is the message. The media has to produce an effective message.

There is no need reciting the harmful effects of obesity. There is no need outlining the cost to the healthcare system. The rising incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is a direct result of obesity.

The message about obesity must be crafted so it can become viral. Attempts have been made to craft such a message. The message has not been constant or continuous.

At the same time, the fast food and junk food industry’s message has be constant and continuous. Its message shows up on every sports event and every comedy show on television multiple times a day. The fast food advertising budget has not been reported. I would guess a thirty second ad during the Super Bowl cost more than the entire public service costs of promoting healthy food intake during a full year.

In 2009, Michelle Obama planted a symbolic 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. The garden was planted to encourage healthy eating.

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Please note there is a lot of spinach planted in four large areas of the garden. There are also a lot of peas planted. Kale, chard, and collard also occupy a significant number of square feet in the garden. None of these can compete with junk food and fast food.

At about the same time the garden was planted, there was a media frenzy created around contaminated spinach. Where are the tomato plants? Where are the fruit trees? There is just a small area devoted to blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Where are the strawberries?

“Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh.”

The first lady said that she had never had a vegetable garden. The idea of a garden came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet.

Yet, when President Obama goes on the campaign trail, the photo-ops are usually taken in unhealthy greasy spoons. He does not set a great example to encourage a change in eating habits.

We are not told how these vegetables are included in the daily meals of the First Family. We are not taught anything about calorie intake of the first family.

There was a report of lead in the White House vegetable garden’s soil. This was not a good message. We immediately heard White House denials.

“The results prompted a number of headlines suggesting that the level of lead in the garden, 93 parts per million, was dangerous.

It was not. The level is well below the 400 p.p.m. considered hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency, though not below the more stringent goals recommended by some countries like the Netherlands, at 40 p.p.m.

The head groundskeeper during the Clinton administration says that sewage sludge which contained lead was used once, in 1995.

These reports did not result in encouraging the population to change its eating habits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a comprehensive nationwide behavioral study of fruit and vegetable consumption. Only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day.

These results fell far short of health objectives set by the federal government a decade ago. The amount of vegetables Americans eat is less than half of what public health officials had hoped.

“Dr. Jennifer Foltz, a pediatrician dedicated to improving the American diet, concedes that perhaps simply telling people to eat more vegetables isn’t working.”

“There is nothing you can say that will get people to eat more veggies,”

The consumption of salads during home prepared dinners decreased from 22% percent in 1994 to 17 percent in 2010. Only 23% of the home prepared meals contained one vegetable.

People know that vegetables can improve health and help with weight loss. The public service campaigns have been ineffective.


1. Vegetables are a lot of work to prepare.

2. Vegetables are wasted all over the country because they are expensive and often spoil in refrigerators.

3. The moment you have some fresh vegetables you have to schedule your life around eating them.

4. Vegetables have to be prepared properly to taste good.

5. Vegetables are expensive compared to fast food.

6. Americans want taste before health,

7. Americans want convenience before health

8. Americans want low cost before health

Why? Americans have the notion that government will pay for their healthcare when they get sick.

Melissa MacBride, a busy Manhattan resident who works for a pharmaceuticals company, would eat more vegetables if they weren’t, in her words, “a pain.”

“An apple you can just grab,” she said. “But what am I going to do, put a piece of kale in my purse?”

It is clear vegetables and healthy eating has been sold to the public the wrong way. Now, a food growers association is trying to get people to eat vegetables by packaging baby carrots as a junk food.


Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

I believe President Clinton has figured out the right formula.

President Clinton was once so famous for his fast food diet that Saturday Night Live performed a sketch called "Clinton at McDonald’s." In the five minute parody, Clinton eats a fish fillet, a sausage egg and cheese sandwich, a chicken nugget, bites of a hamburger, a milkshake, and several french fries.

Since then he has suffered from coronary artery disease. He had a coronary artery stent. It failed. He then had triple bypass surgery. Recently, he became a vegan and lost 24 pounds. His interview with CNN is riveting. This type of public service campaign could change our nations eating habit and decrease obesity.

America must dedicate itself to fighting obesity to decrease healthcare costs. How many congressional delegates have a high BMI? The life style of the nation can be changed by examples such as President Clinton’s.

Otherwise, healthy lifestyles will remain a joke that cannot compete with the advertising campaigns of the junk food and fast food chains.

A victory over obesity is in the people’s power.


The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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