By: James Dickman, MD
Richland Medical Center Family Medicine Physician
America has always been on the go. We have been a nation that started with immigrants from far places in search of a better life, a life free from religious, political and economic persecution and hardship. Over the last, almost 250 years, Americans have enjoyed times of struggle and success but always under the protective shield of freedom. We have become the most wealthy and prosperous nation on earth. In America, you can have a life that can be shaped as you see fit. Unfortunately, prosperity can have a price. Over the last few decades, the physical shape of our population has become quite large as we have enjoyed our prosperity and have been less active and relied more on processed foods that require little effort to make. Being overweight and obese has started to be the cultural norm which has led to many serious health problems for our country, state and community.
Some startling statistics reveal that Wisconsin is the 14th most obese state in the nation. Our Wisconsin obesity rate is now 31% of our population up from 19% in 2000 and 12% in 1990. Richland County ranks in the top 25% of Wisconsin counties for childhood and adult obesity. Two thirds of Richland county residents are overweight or obese. An incredible 75% of Richland county males are overweight and obese. The problem is not going away and seems to be getting worse.
Being heavy leads to all sorts of health problems; the rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, liver disease and even some types of cancer all are proportional to our size. The heavier you are, the more likely one or all of these conditions may plague you. Size does matter, but in a bad way as it relates to our weight and overall health.
These statistics are sobering but not insurmountable. The Richland Medical Center has been aware of this problem for years. Especially over the last ten years there have been efforts by your local Physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants to make our community more physically fit, healthier and now thinner. The Richland Medical Center and Richland Hospital have been leaders in organizing community activity and promotion of healthier lifestyles through education and varied levels of support. Initiatives have been developed to make Richland county residents more aware of the benefits of exercise as there have been bike races, triathlons and walking tours organized for all ages and talents. The Richland Hospital has had their very successful “Get up and Go” activity program in place for over a decade and the waiting list to get into that program can be over a year. A few years ago the Richland Medical Center hired a Health Educator in order to offer additional support and guidance in making healthier choices and promoting options for healthier lifestyles. The Richland Community Center has a wide array of activities to help with endurance, strength and flexibility. Symons Recreational Center is a huge asset to a town like ours; from water aerobics to weight lifting to racquetball, Symons is a place where the novice can start to get physically fit or those that are in shape can stay in shape year round.
Richland Medical Center Physicians, Dr. Neil Bard and Dr. Christine Richards pioneered a Mediterranean style cooking class which promoted more nutritious menus and taught useful cooking and shopping techniques. These classes have now evolved into a sustainable clinic visit model which can benefit patients of Richland Medical Center who want to incorporate healthier cooking and eating into their lifestyles with a level of commitment tied to their healthcare choices.
Over the last three years, medical management of weight has been possible using a variety of different medications. Most of the clinicians at the Richland Medical Center have experience in using medications to safely help with weight loss. I personally have had hundreds of patients go through my clinic with the goal of getting the weight off and keeping it off.
Due to the success of the already mentioned programs, the Richland Medical Center is working to provide additional cohesiveness and coordination in assisting our patients with achieving weight loss goals by adding a Nurse Practitioner who will be able to provide increased focus on these efforts and work with you to address what would work best for your individual needs and lifestyle.
If you are sick of carrying around extra weight and tired of programs that have not worked in the past, I strongly encourage you to enroll in this program. All insurance, Medicare and Medicaid plans cover visits for weight loss. Some patients lose enough weight to stop their blood pressure and diabetic medications. Patients can have a new chance at a healthy life because of weight loss and the benefits it brings.
How the program works is that your Clinician talks to you about what resources are available to you and will assess if medical management is appropriate for your specific circumstances. After a few visits you may be referred to a nurse practitioner who can medically manage your specific needs while still staying in close contact with your primary care provider. This individual will continue to see that appropriate weight loss progresses and assist in developing healthy habits and lifestyles that will support keeping the weight off. We expect this program to be fully operational by the end of October. A successful weight loss program requires a proven track record, but more importantly, very motivated individuals that want to make a change in their life for the better. Let us help you meet your goals and lead the healthier lifestyle you desire.
James Dickman, MD