The problem is real, the issue complex.
One ominous report that captures the significance of the threat states that this generation of children may be the first to have a shorter lifespan than previous generations. The culprit—obesity.
Mount Nittany Health brings the HBO documentary The Weight of the Nation to The State Theatre in State College during the month of April to begin a community dialogue that health professionals say could make a difference.
“With education and knowledge, all we need is the will in order to change the trajectory of the path to obesity that our children are now on,” said Stephen Donelan, MD, nephrology, Mount Nittany Physician Group.
“This film is what each physician in the community wants people to know about obesity and lifestyle modification to promote good health,” said Dr. Donelan. “By coming together as a community, we may be able to help reduce the incidence of preventable illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension and kidney disease.”
“People are interested in controlling healthcare costs. One way of doing so is by becoming empowered to make lifestyle changes that could ultimately prevent costly, chronic illnesses in the future,” said Dr. Donelan.
The four-part series, running every Tuesday in April, includes the film screening as well as audience-led discussions with thought leaders from local government, Mount Nittany Health, and other community groups.
“We are proud to be the venue for this important community event,” said Richard Biever, artistic director of The State Theatre, adding, “The tickets are free, but should be reserved.” Each show begins at 6:30 pm and could be considered a stand-alone. “We encourage people to come to all four events to get the biggest benefit—and bring your friends and neighbors,” said Dr. Donelan.
The topics are:
- April 2: Consequences examines the way we determine what constitutes a healthy weight, the health impact of obesity, and the cost of obesity in healthcare dollars.
- April 9: Choices looks at the contribution of both genetics and how the day-to-day choices we make can impact our weight and overall health. It examines why fad diets do not work and explores ways to effectively lose weight and keep it off.
- April 16: Children in Crisis documents the damage obesity is doing to our nation’s children. Through individual stories, this film describes how the strong forces at work in our society are causing children to consume too many calories and expend too little energy, tackling subjects from school lunches to the decline of physical education, the demise of school recess and the marketing of unhealthy food to children.
- April 23: Challenges examines the major driving forces causing the obesity epidemic, including agriculture, economics, evolutionary biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture, and the strong influence of the food and beverage industry.
“It could be that the community is ready to take this issue on,” said Jan Ulbrecht, MD, endocrinology, Mount Nittany Physician Group, who attended the Centre Region Partners for Health Summit in February at Mount Nittany Medical Center. “Obesity/diabetes was one of the six priority needs identified in an analysis of data and interviews with local stakeholders. Participants at the summit asked good questions about the reasons for this issue in our community, and offered some possible solutions.”
Dr. Ulbrecht will be one of the panelists for the April 2 screening of Consequences. “Certainly, our goal with the Mount Nittany Health Diabetes Network is to make people aware of the resources available in the community and the healthcare system for managing and preventing diabetes,” he said. People Centre’D on Diabetes (PCOD) is another community group that advocates education and people making good choices for a healthy lifestyle.
“Obesity is probably the biggest issue that we deal with in terms of kids and their long-term health,” said George McCormick, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group. “In our practice, we continue to see increasing numbers of kids who are obese and even showing complications of being overweight.” Dr. McCormick will be a panelist for the April 16 film Children in Crisis.
“The Weight of the Nation films provide a great opportunity for families to get the information they need to make some lifestyle choices that will be good for everyone in the family. As a nation, we need to turn the trend back to trimmer, healthier kids. In our practice, we are doing more screenings for complications and we are counseling kids and families about strategies for the proper weight,” said Craig Collison, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group.
In addition to showing the documentary film, Mount Nittany Physician Group is launching a Do You Know Your Numbers? campaign. This is another strategy that Dr. Donelan hopes will motivate individuals to become active in their own healthcare.
“Encouraging people to discuss their weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and kidney function numbers with their physician will help them to develop goals and become motivated to adopt healthy lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Donelan.
The Weight of the Nation was produced through the Institute of Medicine, in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health and in partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.
For more information about The Weight of the Nation, visit thestatetheatre.org. To reserve free tickets for each of the four films, stop by the box office of The State Theatre on 130 W. College Avenue, State College, or call 814.272.0606.