Sunday, February 11, 2007

Telephone survey...

I answered the telephone and took part in a survey regarding the Tulsa City-County Health Department. The woman on the phone sounded like someone's elderly aunt or grandmother, otherwise I would have hung up on her. I don't like surveys, generally. Too often telemarketers use them as introductions for their sales pitch. Call me at home and try to sell me something, and you'll be listening to dead air almost immediately. I have little patience for telemarketers.

But as I said, this woman sounded different, so I stayed on the line. She asked hard questions about the focus of our health department. Which is most important - reducing teen tobacco use, fighting obesity through education, inspecting restaurants, or preparing to fight infectious diseases? In my mind, all of them are important, but reducing tobacco use and fighting obesity are the top two. I'm hard pressed to decide between them, however.

Tobacco is responsible for 435,000 deaths per year in the United States, so it's clearly a public health issue. Those deaths are preventable. If we discourage teens from using tobacco products, presumably we can reduce the number of deaths in the future. Here's hoping.

Obesity (and the various diseases that accompany it) is estimated to cause between 280,000 and 325,000 deaths per year. Again, these deaths are almost entirely preventable. We’re fat, lazy people who don’t want to hear about diet and exercise. We’d rather spend enormous amounts of money on magic pills that with dubious promises like “LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU SLEEP!" (Actually, we do lose weight while we sleep. It’s called dehydration.)

Cycling, or any other cardiovascular exercise, can be part of any weight-reduction plan. My doctor says that anything that increases our heart rate, gets us up off the couch - and away from the refrigerator - is good for us. He recommends walking, cycling, or skating. If I recall right, an adult should get 30 minutes of exercise every day. If that means a trip to the gym, well, OK. But it's much more pleasant to ride a bike back and forth to work, killing two birds with one two-wheeled vehicle.

There were other questions about public health issues, the health department’s website, and the “Don’t Bug Me” program aimed at preventing the spread of cold and flu. I hadn’t visited the website for over a year, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the restaurant inspection information had been restored. At one time, you could see the complete field report for any restaurant in Tulsa County, and you could search the database by community. It’s changed now. You can sort only by the restaurant name and you don’t see the report, only a summary. Still, it’s good information.

I used the site to look at the inspections performed on some local restaurants. It was especially revealing to see which ones had repeated violations for the same offenses. I’d visited 2 that left the back door open for ventilation in kitchen area. That open door invited every housefly in town right into the food preparation areas. I refused to eat there. Both those restaurants are now out of business. Another one had multiple violations for rodent infestations. I don't eat there, either.

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