Believe it or not, even with a new year that began for many of us almost a month ago and even with the recent start (Jan. 23) of the Chinese or Lunar New Year, people in the Washington region continue to make—and break—resolutions about all sorts of things. Dr. Mohammed Akhter, director of the D.C. Department of Health (DOH), however, said he wishes people would make and keep just one very common New Year's resolution--be healthier.
"No amount of government intervention can make someone healthy, one needs to take responsibility for her or his own health," Akhter said.
Akhter's admonishment, and rightly so, stems from public health statistics his agency has revealed: Over 18 percent of men and 25 percent of women residing in D.C. are obese. For African-Americans in D.C., the obesity figure jumps up to a whopping 34.9 percent.
These statistics are a major concern for District health officials since obesity is a risk factor for a range of serious chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Lack of exercise and unhealthy diets, particularly drinking sugary beverages such as sodas, are the main contributors to obesity say D.C. health experts.
To combat the District's high rate of obesity, two years ago, DOH issued a detailed report surveying obesity in all eight wards. The report also included an Obesity Action Plan for bringing down obesity as well as hypertension, and diabetes rates.
The plan includes requiring school cafeterias to serve healthy foods, banning sugary beverages from school-based vending machines and reinstituting regular periods of exercise for all public school children.