I went to a meeting today that discussed the obesity problem in the inner city. It was very interesting to hear the different solutions that either were available or were very possible. The common theme was that people, especially in food deserts, needed to be educated on proper nutrition.
The problem is that people cannot agree on what is good nutrition and what is a feasible goal in increasing the level of education. Everyone can agree that eating processed foods is worse than eating freshly prepared foods, but no one was able to solve the problems of accessibility and affordability of those foods. In my opinion, until that issue gets solved, the education is going to be hard to reinforce.
That said, there are several ways healthier eating can be introduced to everyone in the community. The education needs to be top down and bottom up. Caregivers (typically parents and grandparents) need to be educated on the most basic concepts of healthy eating. Things like fruit and fruit juice are not the same and do not provide the same nutritional values need to be reinforced.
Children need to have a more robust health program in school. It needs to teach them the very basics in the elementary grades like the specific types of fruits and veggies, what they look like and why they help their body. Then as they get older they need to be taught the differences between eating chicken and chicken nuggets, drinking water instead of soda and juice, etc.
This education needs to be as important to their curriculum as math, English and science. This is a foundational education that affects their whole life- and is something that is not being taught at home. They need to know what to buy in a bodega if that is their only option for food shopping, they need to know basic cooking skills so they can prepare their own fresh meals, and they need to know how to make better choices at a fast food restaurant since they know that food stretches their meager resources.
I know this is a simplistic solution, but being in the patient education world, I know that these simple steps are a start. Every doctor’s office, church, community center and school should have an education station broadcasting nothing but healthy eating and nutrition information. Having cable TV or education that is sponsored by Big Pharma is not going to provide the information their community needs.
If you are a non-profit who is trying to fight obesity and preventable diabetes, please reach out to us. We can definitely help you spread your message for less than a cup of coffee a day. We want to help our friends and neighbors live healthier and we believe it starts with education. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (856) 520-8655.