Monday, July 12, 2010


Obesity is a growing epidemic

No matter how you weigh the statistics, obesity levels are on the rise. Local, state and national statistics all lead to one conclusion – as a society we are getting heavier, which can lead to long term health problems.

According to a recent Backus health assessment to determine the health needs in the community, more than 40 percent of residents surveyed in Windham and New London Counties are overweight, higher than the national average of 36.3 percent. Recent state and national studies draw the same conclusions.

Why is this important? Because being overweight leads to serious and expensive health issues – from diabetes to heart disease. Much to the surprise of many, obesity is responsible for more deaths every year than breast cancer and colon cancer combined. It is a health epidemic that is grossly under-rated.

How did we get to where we are today? It’s a long story, but can be summed up this way: We have gone from a society of hunter-gatherers to farmers to consumers.

Food, and lots of it, is easier than ever to get, with thousands of new food products introduced each year – much of it unhealthy. And unlike thousands of years ago, we don’t have to work very hard to get it.

Portions are getting larger, food labels are difficult to decipher, and many of us do not have the time to be as active as we should be.

We all need to be proactive to reverse this trend. Many of our children are overweight, and studies how 75 percent of overweight children remain that way as adults.

Backus Hospital has had a long-standing commitment to improving the eating and exercising habits of the community. From websites dedicated to nutrition to our recent Enjoy LIFE (Lifelong Investment in Fitness and Exercise) community education program, we want to improve the health of the community.

Now we are offering another option – the Backus Weight Loss Center. It combines nutritional counseling, psychiatric screenings, support groups and weight loss surgery when appropriate. The surgery is only offered to patients who are considered severely obese and have tried other options to lose weight.

To learn more about the new weight loss center, the only one of its kind in eastern Connecticut, we are offering community education events beginning July 20 from 6-7 p.m. at the Backus Outpatient Care Center at 111 Salem Turnpike. Other sessions are scheduled for August and September, and registration is required by calling 860-425-8740.Or, visit

Whether you are a candidate for surgery or would be better off with a diet and exercise program, I urge you to take advantage of the free advice that will be offered. Our community’s health is at stake.

Mark Tousignant, MD, is a minimally invasive general surgeon with Backus Physician Services and Medical Director of the Backus Weight Loss Center. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. To communicate with Dr. Tousignant or any of the Healthy Living columnists, email

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