When it comes to getting things done, everything boils down to priorities. When (or if) an item gets to the top of the stack it gets your attention and the odds of getting it done improve dramatically. On the other hand, if an item never gets to the top of the stack the odds of getting it done are effectively nonexistent.
Now when it comes to priorities they come in two distinct varieties. There are priorities that generate profit, and there are priorities that generate no profit. And for most people who live and work in the real world of economic necessity, the odds of taking action on profit generating priorities are significantly higher than the odds of taking action on priorities that generate no profit. (“Action exposes priorities” Gandhi.)
Almost Nobody Gets Paid for Childhood Obesity Prevention
With that said, welcome to the world of childhood obesity. We’re talking about the epidemic the US Surgeon General has labeled “America’s number one health threat.” We’re also talking about an epidemic that almost nobody gets paid to prevent. There’s lots of talk, lots of awareness raising, vision sharing, health fairs, four color flyers, TV spots, and even events held on the White House lawn.
But to find actual boots on the street, to find real live adults working with real live kids on preventing obesity – well suffice it to say that you should avoid holding your breath while trying to find one. I’m not saying they don’t exist. They do exist. But they’re few and far between and thus extremely hard to find.
Pediatricians and Teachers
Think about it. Pediatricians get paid for preventing polio, small pox, diphtheria, whooping cough, and measles so those things all get done on a systematic basis. But pediatricians don’t get paid to prevent the epidemic that dwarfs all these previous epidemics combined – childhood obesity – so they don’t get that done.
Teachers get paid to teach math, science, English, social studies, chemistry, biology, physics, and even physical education, so they get all those jobs done. But teachers don’t get paid to prevent childhood obesity, so they don’t get that job done.
YMCA’s, Boys and Girl’s Clubs, Scouts…
YMCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and park districts all hire people (or recruit volunteers) to occupy/entertain kids after school and during the summer while moms and dads hold down jobs that enable them to pay the bills. But with rare exceptions, these organizations don’t hire people and charge them specifically with the task of preventing childhood obesity. So despite all the lip service these organizations pay to childhood obesity prevention, it fails to get done in these organizations as well.
If There Was a Profit Generated…
I once heard the great Bill Russell (of Boston Celtics fame) address an auditorium full of college students at Northern Illinois University on the topic of race relations back in the late 60’s. He started out by observing “If there was a profit to be generated in resolving the issue of race relations, it would be resolved tomorrow.” Unfortunately childhood obesity occupies exactly the same boat today. In fact in the latter’s instance the financial incentives are stacked against finding a solution because the obesity industrial complex is making so much money on the problems of obese people.
Getting Paid for Generating Real Value
Thus the moral of this story is, when professionals, including family doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, pediatricians, nurses, and physical educators, etc. find ways to generate profits from preventing childhood obesity, it will become a priority that demands our attention and that actually gets done. But until that transformation occurs, childhood obesity will remain one of those “extremely important priorities” to which we pay boatloads of lip service, but we never really get around to doing anything about.