Chewing the Fat
by, 07-21-2009 at 12:01 PM (4438 Views)
Can someone who is a leader for policy to improve health and lifestyle in the U.S. be credible when he or she is a few pounds overweight—even obese? These are the questions critics are asking about the newly-appointed Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, MD. *
As the Surgeon General of the United States, Benjamin will head the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and become the spokesperson on matters of public health in the federal government. As such, her role will include educating the public about health issues and advocating for healthy lifestyle choices.
And therein lies the problem, some say.
Just when the CDC is set to launch its “Weight of the Nation” forum to address strategies to deal with the obesity epidemic that plagues Americans, we see images of an attractive, but full-figured, woman, who some say is sending “the wrong message as the public face of America’s health initiatives”. **
An extraordinary woman, Benjamin has made her mark as a family practice physician by serving her patients in a poor rural town on Alabama’s Gulf coast. She has given of herself by declining payment for her services, making house calls, and paying for patients’ medications from her own pocket. For her work, she has received many honors, including a coveted MacArthur Genius Award.***
If she were to be judged on her work alone, there would not be a question about her dedication, competence, and her qualifications to fill the position of Surgeon General. However, Benjamin is being judged by how much she weighs. As the person who will represent what is healthy for Americans, many are concerned that how she looks might overshadow any health messages she might send the public.
The question is, can Benjamin be credible in her role of advocating for healthy lifestyle choices when she herself is obese? On the other hand, maybe because she is overweight, she can be more effective in her role because she understands the struggles of weight control.
And another question to ask is, would the issue of weight even be brought up if Benjamin were a man?
I’d love to know your opinion…