Exploring the Weight of the Nation, and Washington, DC, and Detroit

I got to speak to Jim Marks, MD, the Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Group for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (@JamesSMarks48) because I won the monthly RWJF Alumni Social Network profile contest (it feels good to win at these times…), and I asked him about social determinants of health. He said to me (and I’m paraphrasing): “social determinants will not take the place of what people do for themselves and their families. We structure choices so that the right thing to do is the easy thing to do.”

With that in mind, and with the series Weight of the Nation on last night, I did some exploration, partly based on this, and partly based on a question my colleague Jan Ground ( @janground ) asked, which was, “Is obesity correlated with poverty?”

Because our friends at Community Commons have set up a special Weight of the Nation page with information , data kits, and the like, I ran some queries on Washington, DC:

As I’ve pointed out on this blog before (See: Do national numbers inaccurately represent Washington, DC’s obesity condition? ), any state or county-wide obesity % for Washington, DC, is going to be wrong, because we have wards with the lowest obesity rates in the United States ( 12 percent! ) and the highest, higher than Mississippi ( 42 percent! ). I’ve just pointed those out rather than putting the data on the maps.

You tell me if there’s a correlation.

Since I’m in Detroit right now for the Innovation Learning Network ( @HealthcareILN ) in person meeting, I decided to look at similar data for the Detroit area. I added the obesity % layer to the map because I believe that this region doesn’t have the same issue as DC (but I just did it this morning, you tell me).

We thought the first two segments of the show are important and educational for the American population. And now, in the era of open data, we don’t have to stop at admiring (or being afraid of) the pictures on the screen. One thing that came up was the image of the man with the “ARMY” T-shirt during the segment. We take for granted that this logo is commonly worn by people who have served, however, two of our colleagues watching the show with us serve as leaders in our military and spoke to us about how it made them feel to see that. How would it make me feel to see our health system logo being worn by a person who is struggling to stay healthy in their environment?

Because the viewing party was for this show, I made sure to pick up healthy snacks. Notice what I noticed – those bags of carrots and celery are resealable, which allows for portion control and re-use. Potato chip bags are typically not. Food for thought.

The 3rd and 4th parts are on tonight, with a reminder that this is “open signal,” no HBO subscription is required to watch. The shows are also available on YouTube, to keep them accessible to all Americans and their loved ones.

Ted Eytan, MD