And that commitment to his patients prompted McKnight, a PhD in nutrition, to establish a federally funded 12-week "Fit-For-Life" wellness initiative in Dennison that has improved the health of more than 1,200 people over the last six years through exercise, better nutrition, and knowledge.
McKnight says he was driven to build the program because "I was very dissatisfied with the way we delivered healthcare. In primary care, the way you survive is on volume. You see a lot of patients and that does not allow you to educate them on healthy lifestyles."
He concedes that Fit For Life would not exist without the more than $750,000 in federal grants it has received over the past six years, along with a new $375,000 Rural Health Care Services grant this year to expand the program.
Rather than railing against government, or being overly dependent upon a subsidy, McKnight wants to strike that balance.
"The message I had for Washington was number one, thank you for the support. Number two was that while legislation and policy have a role in delivering healthcare, we have to empower people individually. We have to instill in them hope and give them information and model for them what good health looks like," McKnight says.
The family practitioner told the Rural Council that the nation suffers from a "poverty of hope, belief, and empowerment. I told them we needed to at the local level help empower people and motivate them and show them what they need to do to take control of their health," McKnight says.
"The allopathic approach is failing miserably. It's not healthcare. It's disease management. What is really frightening is if you look at the obesity and diabetes maps, the healthcare crisis we are anticipating in the next five or 10 years is going to be mind boggling. It will break us economically if we don't do something different," he says.