What a HSPH/Allston parternship could do

Yesterday's Times writes about "one of the most ambitious campaigns ever by a nation to slim down its citizenry". In April, a national law went into effect in Japan that requires people between the ages of 40 and 74 to have their waistlines measured during their annual physical exam.

Men with a waistline of greater than 33 1/2" and women with a waistline greater than 35.4" and a weight-related ailment will be "given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months."

Of course I don't think that a program with similar goals in the US, to reduce "the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years" would use the same approach, but the intent - to help people become healthier and avoid the many negative effects on health related to being overweight or obese - is an admirable one.

Harvard's School of Public Health is expected to relocate to Allston at some point and there has been ongoing brainstorming about what type of partnerships might benefit both the HSPH and the local community. Many people at HSPH, specifically in its Department of Nutrition, are actively interested the connection between weight and health.

At a HSPH forum in 2005 titled "Weighing the Evidence: A Forum to Examine the Latest News About Overweight, Obesity and Mortality in America", experts discussed this "major health problem in the United States" and noted the importance of learning how to help people lose weight to reach a healthy size.

In its 2006 Health Status Report for Allston/Brighton, the Boston Public Health Commission listed obesity as one of the 5 key health issues in A/B. Even though A/B residents have one of the lowest obesity rates in Boston, our rate of 37% means that 25,000 people here are obese! Think of the potential for improved quality of life and reduced medical costs!

This partnership seems like one of the many "win-win" possibilities that could come from having Harvard be part of our neighborhood instead of just in our neighborhood. Harvard researchers could do important research about reducing obesity and A/B residents could enjoy better health and longer lives.

Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions - NYTimes.com

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