1. Fitzpatrick, Melissa A. RN, MSN, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief

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Americans are tipping the scales at unprecedented weights and it's killing us. To reverse this obesity epidemic, President Bush recently launched the Healthier US Initiative using the motto "every little bit of effort counts." The initiative encourages four activities:


[white diamond suit] Be active each day; modest exercise can prevent many chronic illnesses.


[white diamond suit] Eat a nutritious diet; control portions and eat more fruits and vegetables.


[white diamond suit] Get preventive screenings for cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and so on.


[white diamond suit] Make healthy choices; avoid tobacco, illicit drugs, and alcohol.



Walk the talk

Health care professionals, although well aware of the importance and ways of achieving weight control, often don't adapt these guidelines themselves. Many smoke, lack exercise, are overweight, and practice other unhealthy behaviors. How do we expect our patients to heed our advice when we don't walk our own talk?


I'll forever remember a situation that challenged me as a new nurse manager. Jeanne was an experienced nurse who worked on the cardiac step-down unit. She weighed more than 350 pounds. One morning, one of Jeanne's patients demanded my presence. I went to see this middle-aged man who barraged me with his displeasure over his salt-restricted diet. He said that worse than not being allowed to put salt on his eggs was hearing the dictate from a nurse who was morbidly obese. The patient wanted to know how, in good conscience, I could allow such an overweight nurse to dole out diet instructions? He wasn't satisfied with my response that Jeanne was an excellent nurse who had patients' best interests at heart. He wanted health care professionals to hold themselves to a high standard of health. Was he unreasonable?


Obesity by the numbers

About 18% of American adults are obese and about 300,000 obesity-related deaths occur annually in the United States. Fourteen percent of American children ages 6 to 19 are severely overweight, yet pediatricians, pediatric nurses and NPs, and even dieticians report feeling uncomfortable counseling parents and children on weight reduction strategies. 1 More than one third of the nation's leading hospitals have fast food restaurants on their premises. 2 These restaurants may generate revenue, but do they model healthy choices and living? Not likely.


We need a lot of little efforts to reverse the nation's obesity problem, and nurses can lead the way. Your health and the health of our nation depend on it.



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1. Dennison, B., Erb, T., Jenkins, P.: "Television Viewing and Television in Bedroom Associated with Overweight Risk among Preschool Children," Pediatrics. 109( 6):1028-1035, 2002. [Context Link]


2. Ford, E., Giles, W., Dietz, W.: "Prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome among U.S. Adults: Findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey," Journal of the American Medical Association. 287( 3):306-307, January 16, 2002. [Context Link]