A TV Show about School Food in West Virginia, a New York Times Story on Workplace Efforts to Improve Health, and an Article in the New England Journal of Medicine Article on the Prevelance of Diabetes in China: What do They Have in Common?

I just want to give you a heads-up on 3 very interesting media pieces that address a common theme: why are people in the U.S. (and now elsewhere) so unhealthy and what can be done about it?  The first is on ABC-TV and called Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  It is a series of shows on every Friday evening but I don’t know for how long.  I saw the first show on Hulu.com last evening.  Even if you hate TV except for the NCAA basketball tournament, this is “must see” TV.  Don’t take my word for it.  Check out Marion Nestle’s blog today on Huffingtonpost.com.  In summary, the show is about Jamie Oliver’s efforts to improve school lunches in Huntington, WVA.

The second media piece was in the Business section, page 5 of the New York Times, Sunday March 26, 2010.  The piece is entitled “Carrots, Sticks and Lower Premiums” written by Steve Lohr.   The article addresses the mostly unspoken truth that health care reform in the U.S. would benefit in an extraordinary way if all of us lived healthier lives.  Data do show that 50-70% of our nation’s health care costs are preventable, mostly attributable to treatment for chronic complications that mostly related to unhealthy behaviors.  The article is about how employers are beginning to wake up to the fact that it is good business to have healthy employees.  Read the article.

The third piece is an article that appeared the other day in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 25, 2010).  The title of the article was “Prevalence of Diabetes among Men and Women in China” and written by Wenying Yang and colleagues.  The investigators studied whether the rapid change in lifestyle in China has increased diabetes prevalence.  The study population included 46,239 adults, 20 years of age or older, from 14 provinces and municipalities tested between June 2007 and May 2008. The results were astonishing.  China is catching up with the U.S., and I’m not talking about their economy.   The age-standardized prevalences of total diabetes (previously undiagnosed and previously diagnosed diabetes)  were 10.6% in men and 9.7% in women.  For prediabetes (abnormal blood glucose levels but not diagnostic for diabetes), the prevalences were 16.1% in men and 14.9% in women.  The data showed a sharp and steady increase in the national prevalence of diabetes from surveys conducted in 1980, 1994, and 2001 (e.g., prevalence in 1994 was 2.5%).  Not surprisingly , the prevalence was considerably higher in urban residents than among rural residents.  The investigators concluded the following: “that diabetes has become a major public health problem in China and that strategies aimed at the prevention and treatment of diabetes are needed.”


I don’t think I really need to explain how the 3 media pieces relate to one another.  The prevalence of diabetes in China is now just about the same as the prevalence in the U.S. (prevalence of 9.6% based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006).  It’s the price we now pay globally for our economic advances coupled with our genetic predisposition to obesity and diabetes (check out some of my old entries if you have forgotten).   Jamie Oliver knows what do do about the problem in both the U.S. and China and so do employers trying to get their employees healthier, and so do you.

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