On Wednesday, I received an email from the Drexel MPH program. They had received my release form for their program to review the application I filled out for Drexel University Medical School. They asked so nicely for it too…Anyway, yesterday’s email told me that they needed a personal statement from me before the committee could review my completed application. Here was my prompt:
“This statement, which can be e-mailed to me, should describe what you perceive to be pressing public health issues, why a career in the field appeals to you, and how it will utilize your strengths and commitment. It should be approximately one page length.”
Pretty typical prompt….nice and broad…and a bit vague. So I started thinking and decided to talk about the biggest issue that has been staring me in the face for a very long time: being healthy. Now notice I didn’t say ‘being skinny’ or ‘looking like a fashion model,’ magazines say enough of that to make me want to lose my lunch everyday. Which wouldn’t shock me at all to find out that that’s partially how some of these magazine people get as small as they do, and the other part being touch up jobs by the magazine artists.
No I wanted to talk about a balanced health; my only problem was that it had to be about one page in length. I stumbled on something about three months back now that has helped me drop twenty pounds of ‘unhealthy;’ it was so easy. I reduced my problem to basic mathematics and started counting how many calories I was stuffing into my face. I was shocked and quite appalled (and no, I’m not going to tell you how many because I’m a bit embarrassed by it too). I immediately started doing some research on my computer and found out that in order to loose weight I needed to be eating between 1200 and 1500 calories depending on my metabolism. So I started counting again and I can eat that much or actually less and be completely stuffed. I can eat anything I want: pizza, cake, pie, cookies, cake, lasagna, ice cream, hamburgers, soup, bread….etc. I just have to count the calories, and its working. I’ve also been keeping active by working on and around the house: mom’s kitchen is completely finished as well as the guest bathroom. Today through Saturday is outside work in the yard; we’re trying to get ten year’s worth of brush pile cleared out so that I might be able to actually get into the back yard and clean it up a bit.
Anyway, by eating the right amount of calories and my keeping moderately active, I’ve dropped weight, which has made me happy. I’m also feeling much more energetic and willing to do more active stuff; I still have knee problems, but that never really had anything to do with my weight problems despite the fact that the weight probably aggravated them. Anyway, here’s what I said in response to the prompt without any further ramblies.
One of the most pressing matters in public health is the general nutritional ignorance of the public. From Super Size Me versus Down Size Me to the Atkins diet versus the south beach diet, people are getting mixed signals about what it means to be “healthy.” The public can see its problem, but they don’t know how to fix it. As a result, more people are gaining weight at a younger age and more people are developing serious weight related health problems such as Type II diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
What people are not being educated about is what it means to truly be healthy. They understand the original USDA “food pyramid,” which is considered by most experts to be completely outdated and misleading, and they try to follow it. But they haven’t grasped the simple concept that it’s not always how balanced you eat but how much. The daily caloric intake of a normal adult is approximately 2000 calories if the adult does not wish to gain or lose weight. Many people can consume that many calories in a single sitting. There is a corollary for daily caloric intake in the fact that people have extremely different metabolisms and should increase or decrease based on that metabolism and their physicians recommendations. A balanced diet that remains within the bounds of the daily calories will create a healthier person who feels more energetic in general.
Then there’s the added problem of exercise, or lack thereof, which aggravates the weight issue. In our world of advancing technology with televisions and computers in almost every household, people spend less and less time finding entertainment in more basic activities like playing Frisbee, taking a walk, or other such low impact activities that provide moderate exercise. We don’t need to go outside when there’s plenty to entertain us inside from our couches or chairs. Couple this to the fact that most people still believe that going out in the ultra violet sun rays will give them skin cancer and cause them to die, which recent studies show that fifteen minute intervals a couple of times a week out in the sun show that vitamin D made from UV light can actually help in preventing cancer, and you have a perfect recipe for dropping exercise level into the nonexistent realm.
I have watched family members and even myself fall into the traps of outdated food pyramids, fad diets, and conflicting messages about fast food. The bottom line is that people need to be educated about what it really means to be healthy and how to do about doing it in a safe way. They need to be reminded that it’s not always what you eat but how much. The public needs to be made aware of these things using any means available including seminars, clinics, visits to schools, talking to patients, and talking to parents about how to help their children.
In the field of public health, I believe that I would gain the tools necessary to help educate family, friends, and complete strangers how to become truly healthier. I have a great desire to help people at the personal level as well as a desire to help educate people at a broader level. I have developed skills in leadership, administration, delegation and teaching over the years. In fact, most of the employment positions I’ve had were a combination of administrative intensive and teaching broader concepts to a nonmedical/ nonscience audience. If there is to be a change in how people view being healthy, then it is going to take more than a single person’s effort and I believe that an MPH degree would give me the added advantage of honing some of my inherent skills as well as educating me on the best way to help fix the problem.