Which is why it is so striking to talk to Delos M. Cosgrove, the heart surgeon who is the clinic’s chief executive, about the initiative. Cosgrove says that if it were up to him, if there weren’t legal issues, he would not only stop hiring smokers. He would also stop hiring obese people. When he mentioned this to me during a recent phone conversation, I told him that I thought many people might consider it unfair. He was unapologetic.This elicited quite the backlash from the local and national community and Dr Cosgrove eventually apologized for any implied hurtful intent. But yesterday in the Plain Dealer he wrote an op-ed further clarifying his stance. I give the guy credit; he's taken on a topic that makes a majority of Americans uneasy. Over 60% of Americans are either overweight or obese. This isn't some negligible, dark corner, universally comndemned social issue like crack cocaine or drunk driving. It's unfortunately all too pervasive. I like how he drives home the point that personal accountability has to be a major component of any meaningful health care reform. Just as campaigns to reduce smoking and drunk driving were effective using both information/instructional techniques along with more sensationalistic ads meant to ostracize and demonize undesired behaviors, Dr Cosgrove is calling for the same societal commitment to the fight against obesity. I don't see anything controversial about that. I'm just worried that how well this message is received will be contingent on what number you see when you look down at the scale in your bathroom...
“Why is it unfair?” he asked. “Has anyone ever shown the law of conservation of matter doesn’t apply?” People’s weight is a reflection of how much they eat and how active they are. The country has grown fat because it’s consuming more calories and burning fewer. Our national weight problem brings huge costs, both medical and economic. Yet our anti-obesity efforts have none of the urgency of our antismoking efforts. “We should declare obesity a disease and say we’re going to help you get over it,” Cosgrove said.
Monday, September 21, 2009
War on Obesity
Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove MD has been the target of a media firestorm lately over recent remarks he made to the NY Times about morbid obesity in this country. He averred that, given legal protection, he would seek to limit the hiring of the morbidly obese at his hospital.