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Ryan Knutson

Healthy Choices

OPB | April 10, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:50 p.m.

Oregon lawmakers are considering new legislation intended to influence your personal health. One bill proposes raising the legal smoking age to 21, and Portland Rep. Mitch Greenlick also wants to require prescriptions for lighting up. And there’s a push to get calorie counts on menus at restaurants across the state.

Legislation like this reflects the idea that solving health problems requires more of a paradigm shift than personal resolve. There’s growing evidence that society may play a significant role in the rate of people who are obese or overweight (60 percent obesity rate in Oregon and the U.S.).

An Oregon Department of Human Services Task Force recently concluded,

We cannot treat our way out of this epidemic. The health care costs are too staggering and there is little evidence of effective, long-term treatment interventions. The key to preventing obesity and obesity-related diseases is to change the environments where Oregonians spend their time – schools, work and other community places. By increasing access to healthy food options and opportunities for physical activity, we can halt and eventually turn back the disastrous consequences of obesity.

Yet many people still champion the notion that your health is primarily your responsibility. Before testifying in Congress about a bill that would have prevented lawsuits against fast food companies, Dr. Gerard Musante told Business Wire:

Taking personal responsibility for the food choices we make is the primary and most important component of any successful and sustainable weight loss regimen. Maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle is not easy, and there is no ‘quick-fix.’ It is time for industries, organizations and communities to work together in the fight against obesity. Each of us bears responsibility for our relationship with food. We can’t point our finger at someone else.

Have you lost weight or quit smoking? What motivated you? How much does your environment influence the choices you make about your health? Is personal volition or governmental regulation the most effective path to a healthy public?


Note: We started off the show with a mini-version of the story of Bob Wilson. As he likes to put it, he began life at four pounds, twelve ounces, but soon got very overweight. We only touched on the struggles he faces that set him on a path of overeating and the way he later took another path. He’s now health consultant and a passionate believer in personal change.


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