Reflections On Development of the Community Healthy Living Index and A Meta-Analytic Review of Obesity Prevention Programs for Children and Adolescents

If one conquers obesity and disease, one conquers bad eating and living habits.  This is a “comprehensive tool for communities to assess opportunities for active living and healthy eating and to mobilize all sectors of society to conquer obesity and chronic disease.” (Kim:  1).  While I agree that obesity is an epidemic that I see daily, in order for people to eat and live more healthy, a combination of acts need to happen.  Propaganda (and I should clarify that I mean propaganda in the neutral, European sense as influencing ideas, objects, actions, etc. rather than anything that one disagrees with, or an “evil”) needs to be instituted that conditions people to read labels in detail, refuse to eat most packaged food, and to eat more local foods and less sugar.  In tandem, the correct funding needs to be made available that allow low-income families the affordability and availability to purchase (or better yet, grow their own) local and organic foods. Both are vitally necessary, but in the end, each person has to take the initiative and make the decision to eat and live healthy, all the while fighting intellectually to question the propaganda that bombards them daily and hourly.  The collective or the government cannot make this decision for anyone or prohibition and illegal activity result. But creating such a program may result, partially, in a “build it and they will come” phenomenon.

The how to do it is addressed by the paper reviewing obesity prevention programs.  What is immediately interesting is the fact that the interventions that do occur are more effective as propaganda used to influence healthy diet within small groups of adolescents and high-schoolers, teen-age girls, teen-age boys, and those dangerously at risk.  In larger groups, the desired result is less effective.  I can speculate that the groups would then be too large and subject to too much outside influential-propaganda from family and peers. But later the authors indicate that those programs that focused on a broad range of health issues were not as effective as those that focused upon just one, specifically body weight. Propaganda, after all, is more effective if it focuses on one or a few subjects at a time to avoid the dilution of a message.

Overall, the results from these studies are mixed, showing modest results in shorter rather than longer-term studies.  I believe that getting people to eat more healthy is possible nationwide if a concerted propaganda effort is conducted with government in conjunction with corporate industry, just as the propaganda effort was used to convince the American public that it was fine and noble to go to war and die for country in World War I when the concept of propaganda was first introduced to the American public.  I believe that the work that will be done in conjunction with Tanner will begin to help the communities, but it will only be a small beginning. More work will need to be done to teach the communities how to think, eat, and act for themselves in relation to their well being, happiness, and health which are all tied together from a holistic health perspective.  This can be done in further studies, and as ambitious as it seems, the work done here has the potential to be a model for the rest of the country.

In spite of the optimism, there is a great deal of conditioning propaganda that will have to be overcome, propaganda that programs individuals to believe that a medical doctor fixes you when you are sick, that the government knows what food is best for you and your family, and food is not what makes you ill, sick, or diseased.  This is propaganda that has been in place for at least the last fifty years.  The eat healthy propaganda from eighty years ago plus would be shocked at the current state of “health,” where people were encouraged to eat local fruits and vegetables and eat less meat. There is a lot of work to do.

Sources:

Kim, S., et al. (2009). Development of the Community Healthy Living Index: A tool to foster healthy environments for the prevention of obesity and chronic disease, Prev. Med.

Stice, E, Shaw, H., Marti, N. (2006). A Meta-Analytic Review of Obesity Prevention Programs for Children and Adolescents: The Skinny on Interventions that Work. Psychol Bull.

Tags: , , , , ,