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Who's fighting the obesity and diabetes pandemics?

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Obesity and diabetes are as great a health concern as the current pandemic, according to columnist

Day after day, health officials stress that the best way to fight the coronavirus is by staying home, keeping our distance from others, and practicing good hygiene. But human isolation is crippling the world’s economy. So, does this approach make sense when other devasting pandemics have been raging for years and killing more people?

The number of coronavirus deaths is changing daily. To date, over 324,000 people are said to have died worldwide, over 90,000 in the U.S, and over 6,000 in Canada.

But the World Health Organization reports that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, killing 2.8 million people annually, or 7,671 people per day. Diabetes and high blood glucose annually kill 3.8 million people worldwide, or 10,411 per day. 

So, what is the difference? The coronavirus pandemic is killing people faster for all to see. This makes headline news night after night. It’s the perfect medical and economic disaster, the likes of which the world has never before encountered. Yet, like others in the past, this virus will gradually fade away.

But we’re living in Never Never Land if we believe the slow, silent, pandemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes will fade away. It won’t happen, and we will never hear about it because if has no drama. No 24-hour TV coverage. No infectious disease doctors to report its lethal progress. Nor, does it have our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, or U.S. President Donald Trump, to reassure us all will be well.  

But a train wreck is coming. It’s like the boy who applied for a job at the railroad station. He was asked, “What would you do if you saw a train coming west at 100 miles an hour, and another train coming east on the same track, and they were just a quarter of a mile apart?” He replied, “I’d run and get my brother, because he’s never seen a train wreck.”

Deaths from obesity and Type 2 diabetes will slowly, silently, and surely bring our health care systems to their knees.

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes lead to expensive medical complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, leg amputations and orthopedic troubles.

Scientists will eventually develop a vaccine to control the coronavirus. And our economy, badly bruised, will survive. But researchers will never discover a vaccine to control poor human behaviours. We won’t ever see medical experts, health officials, Prime Ministers or Presidents discussing how to control the pandemic of poor lifestyle choices, arguing that we must take draconian measures and shut down society to stop the madness. So obesity and Type 2 diabetes will continue to escalate with catastrophic results.

That’s a big difference between coronavirus deaths and those due to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. One is an invisible virus that shows little mercy and stymies our best efforts to halt it. The other pandemic is one that good sense and a sound lifestyle could stop. But deaths from obesity and Type 2 diabetes, although less dramatic than coronavirus, are crippling our economy and society just the same.

We are all complicit in our societal response to pandemics. We are willing to take collective action to stop a virus.  But what are we willing to do – as individuals and as a society – to fight lifestyle diseases?

Shakespeare was right when he wrote, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  Or, as Pogo the cartoon character advised, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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