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A Food-Culture Change Is Upon Us

As a pediatric endocrinologist, I am on the frontline of the childhood obesity epidemic. In fact, I am now seeing 100-pound two year olds and 150-pound three-year-old kids in my clinic and I am concerned. The obesity epidemic is perpetuated by a processed food-culture that lacks healthier local whole foods. 
 
Diets dominated by processed foods (refined carbohydrates with high fat- and/or high-sugar content and artificial ingredients) over whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) spur more obesity and diabetes, and have even been shown to negatively change gene expression of the offspring during pregnancy. All-processed ingredients reflect the balance of desirable factors in the modern way of life such as shelf life (long), taste (sweet), texture (fat) convenience (high), and price (low) — all profitable, all less nutritious, and all with a mass-marketed, generic, “cultureless” appeal that reduces emphasis on local cultures and flavors.

The recent rise of social networking is testament to the fact that people are hungry to connect and yearn to be culturally inspired. Culture (art, food, music) deeply connects people and transcends time, politics, and poverty because it is the language of being human — and something that never changes. Medical research as well as the positive embracing of First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign demonstrates an open mind to the idea of a healthier culture and readiness for change. In fact, many of the families that I meet in my clinic are interested in considering whole-food choices, but lack knowledge and guidance.

Food-culture change offers the best hope for transforming obesity and what Americans eat. Oprah’s recent vegan-whole-food-challenge show on February 1st is a step in the right direction and will help to propel the emerging whole-foods movement. Columbus, Ohio is emerging as a center for local whole-foods activism and food-culture change. Just in 2010, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission released the Central Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan — the first plan of its kind in the nation — and received an $885 million US. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to create an urban foodscape in one of Columbus’ most blighted neighborhoods. Read more »

We’re Making Fewer Babies: What To “Expect”

Recently I ran into the office manager for one of Houston’s largest pediatric practices. New patient visits are way down and their doctors are looking for ways to keep business rolling. The same day I picked up this piece in the Wall Street Journal which shows declining admissions and doctor visits as a national trend. This is bad news and shows how our faltering economy is finally working its way more visibly into healthcare.

And apparently we’re making fewer babies –- admissions to neonatal intensive care units are down. This is a problem. For large tertiary medical centers and hospitals specializing in maternal-child health, babies are the critical customers of a healthy operation.

A few thoughts on what to look for (or dare I say, what to “expect”) with fewer babies:

Pipelines. Look for tighter referral relationships between large tertiary centers and the smaller community hospitals that deliver babies in need of specialized care. Centers already aligned with ready-made networks should be well-positioned for the downturn. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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