Recently I had the opportunity to participate in an event at Cowboy Stadium called Challenge America. Held on January 19th of this year, the program in Arlington that day was the seventh so far being offered around the country in 2013. Challenge America Military Opportunities, or CAMO, is a non-profit organization designed to provide support resources to active and former military members and their families. TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz along with 250 local medical professionals volunteered to provide 15 minute physicals to all who desired one. The Dallas event, also open to civilians, drew around 800 participants who attended Family Fitness Day.
In addition to the focus on health and fitness, the day was filled with seminars, symposiums, and important information for military families like mental health, employment, housing and family issues. The afternoon concluded with a picnic on the floor of the stadium as we listened to music performed by Amy Grant, Vince Gill, and Mr. Gill’s daughter, budding country artist Jenny Gill. While I had not previously been familiar with Challenge America, I found the day both exciting and rewarding. As a child of a World War II veteran, it felt good to be giving something back to the community and to local servicemen and their families as they transition back from the battlefield and resume their normal lives throughout the Metroplex. I was surprised to learn that North Texas is home to the largest population of active and retired military men and women in America, surprising indeed considering that we do not even have a large military installation in this region.
In addition to education and community outreach, Dr. Oz has a greater vision and a bigger goal. In his words, “ we think we can change the health of America one city at a time.” So as nurses gathered test results for cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index, and blood pressure, the doctors reviewed the results of the exams and explained to each person what the results meant and what they could do to improve their overall health and wellness. In addition, Dr. Oz compiled all the results into a report that he made available to the mayors of Dallas, Arlington, and Ft. Worth. As you might guess, the news was not so great.
Forty–seven percent of the attendees were overweight, some severely. Forty-four percent were hypertensive. Vegetable eaters were scarce as two thirds indicated they had two or fewer servings a day of fresh vegetables and fruit. Belt salesmen would have had a field day with the 40/40 club; forty percent with waist sizes greater than forty inches. According to Dr. Oz, all these statistics can be reversed, and it is his hope that the one on one discussions will inspire people to live healthier lives, and that local leaders will see the need and responsibility to invest in additional public health resources. More than one participant was shocked to find that their present health challenges are serious and if not addressed, might quickly lead to life threatening consequences.
One of my favorite ministers at our church always closes his sermons by asking the question, “how can you use this on Monday?” So as I reflect on the events of Challenge America, I am struck that on a smaller scale my medical practice has a similar objective, not because we can change things one city at a time, but because we can help with America’s health challenge one patient at a time. How do we use this information to help? Nobody understands better than me how difficult it is to change poor habits. So in my practice, we try to go beyond just saying “improve your diet and exercise more each day.” My staff and I relish the opportunity to help our patients change their lives, improve their quality of life, and provide a blueprint for their families. We do this with evaluation, education, encouragement, and patience.
So challenge yourself and focus the next 3 weeks on changing just one thing to move in a positive direction toward improving your health.