Archive for April, 2005

HIN’s Pyramid Scheme

April 29th, 2005 by Melanie Matthews

Guest Blogger: Patricia Donovan

We took our sons and daughters to work yesterday. Even with our extra “staff,” we worked harder than usual! But their youthful perspective on our work—and the subject of healthcare—was refreshing.

The theme of this year’s event was “Sharing Power and Possibility.” Since knowledge is power, we decided to test our—and your—children’s awareness of MyPyramid, the USDA’s overall food guidance system released last week that presents a more individualized approach to improving diet and lifestyle.

It’s a timely topic. More than 9 million American children and adolescents are overweight—triple the number identified in 1980. Pediatricians are seeing alarming increases in asthma, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and orthopedic complications among these overweight youths—conditions that normally beset a much older population. Perhaps most sobering is the medical community’s fear that if current trends continue, our children’s life expectancy will be shorter than our own—a devastating step backward.

With parental guidance, our offspring electronically surveyed their peers—daughters and sons of 20,000 HIN customers also at work with their parents yesterday—about the “MyPyramid” food guidelines. We received more than 50 responses from “working” youngsters across the country. Our guest editors compiled the results into a report titled The Food Pyramid: What Kids Think and sent it to respondents.

Unscientific as they were, we were heartened by the survey results. Maybe it’s because their parents work in healthcare, but nearly all respondents already knew about the week-old guidelines. More than half had heard about them in school, giving us hope that educators are on top of this life-threatening issue. Some had a unique take on the information: “There’s more than one pyramid and all of them are pointy,” one respondent reported. The respondents offered a wealth of suggestions for healthy snacks (“cucumber with lemon and a dash of salt” among them) and a multitude of reasons for eating healthy.

With the virtual ink barely dry on the guidelines, it’s too early to tell whether we should be intimidated or inspired by them. Incorporating 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day is daunting, unless we’re allowed to count the morning out-the-door-to-school rush. So is planning meals that include two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit daily. Recommending this to a population already mired in bad eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle may set up the average American for failure.

But we have to start somewhere. We may not be able to scale the federally mandated pyramid overnight, but we can chip away at the e-habits (TV, hand-held games, the Internet) that are slowly killing our children. Because we want them to be around long enough to take their own sons and daughters to work.