The Well-Being Journal

The Global Obesity Epidemic Requires a 360° Solution: Dr. Jim Pope at the Milken Institute Global Conference

Jennifer Rudloff

Jim Pope_Milken Institute_Global ConferenceYesterday, Healthways Vice President and Chief Science Officer, Dr. James Pope, participated in a panel discussion, “Weight of the World: Strategies to Fight the Global Obesity Epidemic,” at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

Each year, the Milken Conference convenes hundreds of business leaders, Nobel Prize winners, scientists, educators, philanthropists, and other global decision-makers to discuss their provocative opinions and fresh insights. The Conference delves into urgent challenges facing the world, from the economy, to health care, to energy, to education. Attendees not only debate issues, but also help move policy towards solutions.

Moderated by Reuters Senior Health and Science Correspondent Sharon Begley, the panel – including Kent Bradley, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, Safeway Inc.; Francine Kaufman, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Global Medical, Clinical and Health Affairs, Medtronic Diabetes; and David Kirchhoff, President and CEO, Weight Watchers International Inc. – aimed to find out.

During the panel, Dr. Pope and the others discussed the severity and rapid growth of the global obesity epidemic and its implications on public health, productivity, human capital formation and economic development. In addition, they talked about the causes and solutions and how businesses and other leaders can support interventions.

We know that – although obesity rates in European countries such as Germany and the U.K are lower than the U.S. obesity rate – obesity is a global problem. During the panel, Dr. Pope noted that, while obesity rates in the U.S. may appear to have plateaued, we still maintain an unfortunate trend of shockingly high obesity rates, and the rest of the world is catching up.

So, why is this happening?

Experts on the panel attribute this trend to several factors: we eat out more often and on larger plates, we don’t engage in as much physical activity at our jobs as we used to, and we now produce food much more efficiently, resulting in cheaper calories.

Ultimately, however, Dr. Pope and the panelists presented a light at the end of this tunnel of grim obesity patterns. Personal behaviors really provide the greatest opportunity to improve health and reduce premature death. We can’t depend on our doctors alone. We need to rely on ourselves and on our employers if we want to turn this trend around.

But how can we sustain these programs and their results? In our opinion, a multi-faceted, collaborative approach works best.

As indicated by the Johns Hopkins University POWER Trial, in order to lose weight and combat obesity, more is necessary than physician interaction. We found great results in combining physician advice with telephonic weight-loss guidance from Healthways health coaches. In this case, the doctor was not conveyed as the expert on weight loss – rather, our motivational coaches provided expertise for the patient’s approach to food, exercise, financial management, and life in general. We used this collaborative model to launch our new weight-loss offering, Innergy.

At Healthways, we’re always looking at how to improve the health of our nation, and prevent the progress of unfortunate trends like obesity. Through our Blue Zones initiative, we examine how people live to be older and healthier. Iowa is spearheading the charge and is focused on becoming the healthiest state in the nation through the program. Its communities have come together to support each other in this effort. They know that the U.S. simply cannot afford to keep going in the direction it has been. And they are leading by example.

This panel conveyed that the Milken Institute Global Conference not only provides a forum for scholarly discussion on many subjects; it also provides a forum for hope for the future. To learn more about Healthways efforts to fight U.S. obesity with our collaborative – and effective – approach, click here.

What lessons do you think policy makers should keep in mind as we strive to fight the global obesity epidemic? Share your thoughts here, or tweet us to let us know what you think!

To view the full panel discussion, visit the link below:
Weight of the World: Strategies to Fight the Global Obesity Epidemic

Topics: weight of the world Obesity Weight Loss Innergy Healthcare Prevention Milken Institute Global Conference Healthways Johns Hopkins Events Jim Pope James Pope