My Presentation – The Care of the Spirit
In September, I made a short blog entry about my involvement and a presentation I gave at this year’s Southern Obesity Summit. I thought it would be helpful to make available the PowerPoint slides and handout that I used in my presentation: The Care of the Spirit – Why It’s Essential in Our Fight Against Obesity.
The opportunity to talk with many of the leaders of the various obesity prevention initiatives was invaluable. Listening to different perspectives gave me additional insight into some of the challenges that we face as a country and in our Southern States.
Pillars of Work and Strategies
In previous years there have been five pillars that have guided the work of the attendees of Summit. This year, the pillars have been expanded to be seven in number:
- Early Childhood
- Food Systems
- Food Access
- Physical Activity
- Healthcare and Healthcare Systems
Much of the effort and formal discussion and work at this year’s Summit centered around the work to be done in these seven pillars.
However, throughout the Summit, many comments were made about the need to address the mental health component of obesity. Other comments were made about the need to address the role that stress management plays. One poster presentation offered a solution for a “Comprehensive Wellness” curriculum – that addresses emotional health – that could be taught in schools.
Spiritual Health and Faith
Toward the end of the Summit I attended the final leader’s panel discussion that addressed and reviewed some of the key issues. I felt compelled to share a message with the larger group and had the opportunity to ‘join the conversation’ with a statement and a question.
My comments to the group were something like the following:
“I’m here at the Summit representing the Creator of these bodies we have, God. More importantly, I’m here as an advocate, as an Ambassador, for Jesus Christ, my Savior. I want to “connect a dot’ for us that hasn’t been done publicly at the Summit.
“The pillars that we’ve been addressing these last few days, and the associated initiatives that we’ve been talking about, have merit and are admirable, but none of these policies or initiatives address the deeper, more important inner needs of children or adults.
“There is a strong connection between our behaviors and physical health and our mental, emotional and, at the deeper level, our spiritual health. Research in recent years has demonstrated the relationship between religion or spirituality and physical health and well being. Our emotional, mental and spiritual health give us the personal capacity to make it easier to make the healthier choice.
“I believe that our obesity epidemic is a symptom, or a barometer, of the spiritual health of our country and of the people in our country, including our Southern states. In the largest study of teenagers ever, as documented in the book Hurt 2.0, our teenagers feel alone, unsafe and are under more stress than any generation ever. CDC data shows that one in six boys and one in four girls have been sexually abused. Studies show that more than 50% of morbidly obese people have been sexually abused. In one bariatric clinic, 79% of treated women were sexually abused. These issues are issues of the heart and soul and spirit. They are just a few examples that address deep spiritual needs that people have, and if left unmet, are a contributing factor to obesity.
“The most important resource for living that humans have is our relationship with our Creator, God and our faith in him and how we live in relationship with him, yet this resource has been excluded in our strategies to prevent and fight obesity.
“If you look at the map of our 16 Southern states and you were to draw an oblong shape covering most of the states, you could label the shape “The Bible Belt.” A Gallup Poll of 2011 indicates that up to 85% of people in our Southern states say that ‘religion is an important part of our daily life.’ If this is the case, why shouldn’t we be addressing the spiritual factors that are at the root of obesity?
“I invite us to consider adding another essential pillar to guide our efforts. We could be bold and call it the Faith pillar. We could be even bolder and call it the Jesus pillar. Or, alternatively, we could be safe and call it the Spiritual Health/Faith Community pillar.
“My question to the panel is this – In light of my comments, why do you think we have not included the care of the spirit – the spiritual health piece – in our efforts for the preceding six years?”
The purpose for my comments was to raise the awareness of the need to address the care of the human spirit and to reaffirm the importance of the role that our relationship with God plays in this aspect of life. Another purpose for my comments was to plant the seed for the relevance of including spiritual health as a focus area in our obesity prevention strategies.
My prayers are that, in the weeks and months ahead, the leadership of the Southern Obesity Summit will incorporate spiritual health into a pillar so that effective strategies can be developed in this arena.
I look forward to continued conversations and possible collaborations that will occur as a result of the groundwork that was laid at this year’s summit.
PS. It was announced that the 2013 Southern Obesity Summit will be in Nashville, Tennessee. Perhaps I’ll see you in Nashville next year!
PPS. If you’re a leader in the Southern Obesity Summit effort or are passionate about spiritual health and it’s impact on obesity, I’d love to hear from you.
PPPS. Consider dropping an email to the leadership of the Southern Obesity Summit about the importance of addressing spiritual health and faith in the work that lies ahead.