Shows: 01.07.08

Monday mornings I'm on the air sharing more stories about how people are living better through computers. You'll be able to dig into my field notes from past shows. The archives currently start this year, but I'm also looking for ways to share some of the highlights of the past 8 year's worth of adventures.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Supersized New Year's Resolution:

How Oklahoma City is Using the Internet to Win by Becoming the Biggest Loser of the Year

Most of us are guilty of making and breaking the cliché New Year's resolutions. Some of us even turn to the net for a little help, but this year Oklahoma City Mayor, Mick Cornett, is betting big, and using the Internet to reach out to citizens to turn a city's fate around, one pound at a time. The goal? Lose one million pounds in one year!

This is no quick fix. Recognizing the abillity of reality TV shows like "The Biggest Loser" and the power of the Internet to engage both attention and traction, Cornett has put together a program designed to meet the city's reputation as "the most obese in America" and turn it around for good.

The mayor has found a novel way of using technology to fight the battle of the bulge in Oklahoma City, creating a web site to gather together resources to raise awareness and inspire people to make a lifelong change, and giving them practical tools to do it. Mayor Cornett is inviting the citizens of OKC to lead the way to a healthier nation by joining him at the new web site: to participate in a city-wide effort to lose 1 million pounds in 2008. Citizens are invited to sign up at no cost to tap into a handful of helpful resources to take the first step and stick with it, including:

  • directions to local hiking and biking trails
  • access to both community and online fitness programs
  • behaviour modification tools
  • tools for tracking their personal progress and that of the city at large

An American Problem? A Canadian Epidemic …

A report prepared for the federal government of Canada in 2001 revealed some troubling trends in the health of our communities. Obesity has both health costs and economic ones, and you might be surprised at just how dramatic both of these really are.

Obesity-related issues cost Canada $5.3 billion in 2001, number that has been increasing exponentially over the years. Obesity-related illnesses accounted for 5.3% of the provincial budget in Ontario, and as high as 7.5% in the province of New Brunswick. 1

Risks and Connections to Other Illnesses and Diseases

Obesity increases the risk of developing a number of other health problems, including:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • gall bladder disease
  • respiratory and cardiovascular disease
  • stroke
  • hypertension
  • osteoarthritis
  • some types of cancer, including breast, colon, kidney, endometrial and prostate cancer.

With the personal and economic costs of obesity related illnesses in Canada rising, Mayor Cornett's model is one worth considering, and a truly innovative way for communities to tap into the power of the Internet to increase their wellbeing. It will be interesting to follow the success of this new internet model toward growing a healthier community. With the consequences of obesity being measured not only in terms of health costs but economic ones, and the ability of "web-based" communities to engage, Oklahoma City seems to be investing it's energy and attention in practical ways. This particular super-sized New Year's resolution is one worth reproducing in communities across Canada.

1 Source of Canadian-based statistics: Based on figures provided in the GPI Atlantic Cost of Obesity reports for each province, prepared by Ronald Colman, . Compiled by the Library of Parliament. "The Obesity Epidemic in Canada" July 2005


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