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Small changes make big health differences
By Richard Carmona, M.D., is president pf Canyon Ranch Institute Board of Directors and was surgeon general of the United States from 2002-2006. - photo by Photo provided.

There is a silent killer in the United States.
Every day, another victim. Every day, another missed opportunity to save a life.
In this murder mystery, the smoking gun is the steady rise in chronic disease. The irony of it all is that we are pulling the trigger ourselves.
To become a healthier nation, we must transform our fundamental approach to health. We must move away from the current sick-care system, which is more focused on treating disease, to a true health-care system more focused on prevention.
In the United States, we spend more money on health care than any other nation in the world, yet we rank 50th in terms of life expectancy. If we focus our resources on prevention, we can and will reduce health care costs and improve health and well-being.
From the beginning of life, racial and ethnic minorities and under-served communities experience health disparities.
In the United States, the infant mortality rate for African-Americans and American Indians is more than twice that of the national average.
The situation doesn’t improve as children grow up. Men and women of color die an average of five years earlier than their white counterparts, and disparities among Hispanic Americans are rising.
Underpinning those grim truths about our nation and our national security is the reality that obesity is the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in America.
Obesity has its roots in our culture, schools, workplaces, homes and daily lives.
Culturally, we associate food with love.
We mistakenly think a big, healthy baby is healthy, when in fact the child might not be healthy at all.
We heap food on bigger and bigger plates, thinking it is a show of our affection and caring, when in fact that very attempt to demonstrate love actually harms our health.
In Savannah, the hospitality industry produces about $1.6 billion annually and employs more than 22,000 people, or about 27 percent of the total workforce, according to the Savannah Economic Development Authority.
Despite those clear benefits, if you take a quick scan of the menu items at most restaurants, you will have to ask why so many businesses are slowly killing their customers with too much fat, too much salt and too much alcohol.
Canyon Ranch Institute is working with Charles H. and Rosalie Morris, Connect Savannah, Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care Inc., Savannah Urban Garden Alliance and a steadily growing number of other businesses, organizations and individuals to help make Savannah a healthier place to live, work and visit.
To make that transformation in the community, we need your help. None of us can change the culture of food that currently exists in Savannah by ourselves.
None of us can change the number of people who do not move their bodies for health on a regular basis by ourselves.
None of us can help all of Savannah find a healthy sense of purpose — the desire and drive to live a long, healthy and productive life — by ourselves.
In Georgia, nearly one-third of the adults are obese. More than one-third of all adults in Georgia who are between 45 and 64 years of age — adults who should be at their most productive in life — are obese. Among African-Americans, the rate is even higher.
Nearly one-third of Georgia adults suffer from high blood pressure — more than 1.6 million people. If these trends continue, the projection is that by the year 2030, there will be over 2.2 million adults in Georgia with heart disease — more than five times the number today — and over 300,000 adults with cancer — nearly three times today’s level.
This must stop.
There are policy efforts that local and state governments can put into play to address this situation, which robs children of their parents and the nation of its most viable future.
As important as policy, however, are small steps you can make in your life to help assure that you live the happiest and healthiest life possible.
These changes are not complex. They don’t take a doctor’s degree or a surgeon general to figure out. You have the skills and abilities needed to live a healthier life now. You just need to decide to do it — one day at a time.
When I was a boy growing up in Harlem in New York City, my family was at one time homeless, often flat broke and, truthfully, I didn’t even graduate from high school.
One day though, I got smart enough to join the U.S. Army. That was the best “mistake” I’ve ever made in my life. Ever since that day, I have taken a whole lot of small steps, every day, to later become the 17th surgeon general of the United States.
With your help, we can turn the tide on obesity and chronic disease in Savannah. We can kill the silent killer of chronic disease by no longer killing ourselves through our choices about food, exercise and how we feel about ourselves.
If you join us in this movement by supporting the Canyon Ranch Institute Savannah Partnership and taking just one small step today toward a healthier life every day, I promise you’ll feel happier, think clearer, be healthier and experience more success in life.
Additionally, with your help, the CRI Healthy Garden at Trustees’ Gardens will build upon Savannah’s rich history to create a green space filled with healthy food and flowering plants. We will be holding organizational meetings for all the volunteers — individuals, businesses and organizations —at 9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. May 19 at the Charles H. Morris Center at Trustees’ Gardens.
Anyone interested should call CRI in Savannah at 912-443-3264, tweet @CRIHealthyWorld or email questions and suggestions to
Help us help you experience the power and possibility of a healthy world here in Savannah. Thank you.

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