July 29, 2011
by Kelly Morgan
When Dr. Karina McHardy, a physician who is currently working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Public Health at Oxford University, enthusiastically explained that her lectures would cover the topics of obesity and diabetes, two topics of particular interest to me, I couldn’t wait for her to begin. I have been working as a clinical research intern for TrialNet, an international network of researchers exploring ways to prevent, delay and reverse the progression of Type I Diabetes, at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism. When my aunt suffered and eventually passed away from Type II Diabetes, I knew I wanted to become further educated on all aspects of the disease, as well as the affect of obesity on the onset. Therefore, with the opportunity I have at Children’s Hospital, I have seen the impact of diabetes on the lives of patients firsthand. The lecture included the statistic that up to 80 percent of all cases of Type II Diabetes would not exist if there was no obesity, which stresses the significance of the public understanding the direct correlation between the two medical conditions.
Dr. Katina Hardy lectures to the USC students on Diabetes Mellitus. Photo by Judy Haw.
Dr. McHardy revealed the fact that obesity is now categorized as a “medical condition,” which is evident by the statistic that by 2030, 86 percent of Americans are estimated to be overweight or obese. Nutrition has taken a substantial role in my life because I firmly believe in the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and how diet and exercise determines your state of wellbeing. Dr. McHardy eloquently stated that “when more than half of your population is affected, it can no longer be considered an individual problem.” Society has become fixated on freedom of choice, or what Dr. McHardy characterized as the “illusion of choice,” therefore justifying poor eating habits through the idea that one should be able to choose to eat what tastes best, and most importantly what they want to eat, without considering the consequences. Obesity has become “the new smoking,” and just as individuals excuse smoking by focusing on the short-term pleasure, rather than choosing to deal with uncertain negative outcomes in the future, people savor the comfort of unhealthy food ignoring “what could happen.” The lecture encompassed the dangerous truth that misclassification is occurring, as perceptions shift from what was once thought of as a normal, healthy weight. As society becomes larger, obesity has become more accepted, and when ideas become engrained in a culture, they are difficult to change.
Public health education I believe is the reason why I, along with my fellow students from USC, am currently at Oxford, and notably why we have a unique connection. Our education is what will contribute to educating the greater community, and hopefully in the future, the greater population worldwide. My interest in global health topics is not only for my academic success, but in turn for the eventual accomplishment of my goals to improve the statistics I continue to learn about. Further learning gives me the tools to make a difference so individuals in the world don’t become merely another statistic, but instead are informed to make the life choices that help avoid preventable causes of mortality, such as obesity.
Kelly Morgan is a junior studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from San Francisco, California.