CEO's Mangled Message Carries Weight

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 21, 2009

That brings us back to Cosgrove. No one sees the devastating effects of obesity on a human body more so than the healthcare professionals who deal with the damage. As a surgeon, Cosgrove is speaking from a front-row seat when he talks about obesity as this generation's great public health menace, with the potential to harm tens of millions of Americans. In that respect, he's dead right. His sense of urgency is understandable.

This nation has a pretty good record for raising public awareness on health issues like smoking, pollution, alcohol abuse, drunken driving, and wearing seatbelts. So far, we've talked a lot about obesity but we haven't done much beyond that. It's time for a coordinated national dialogue on obesity, from which could emerge an action plan that must include raising public awareness. The challenges will be daunting, because the issues around obesity are far more complex than any other public health issue. Not everyone smokes. Not everyone drinks alcohol. Not everyone drives a car. Everyone eats.

If we are going to recognize substantial savings from any healthcare reform, the healthcare consumers have to be on board, committed to healthier living. At the same time, taking action on overweight and obesity cannot mean demonizing the 60% of Americans who fall into either of those categories.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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