(New York, NY: November 4, 2017) Over 3/4th of Veterans receiving care in VA facilities are considered to be overweight or obese and struggling with weight related issues. The epidemic of obesity across our country has adverse effects on morbidity, mortality, and healthcare expenditures. American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the most dynamic and ethnic organization representing more than 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, officially launched Veterans Obesity Awareness Campaign (VOAC) at a solemn ceremony at the Indian Consulate in New York on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017.
Dr. Gautam Samadder, President of AAPI, in his presidential address, said, AAPI has joined a team from VA in its mission to improve the Health and Healthcare of Overweight and Obese Veterans along with other organizations including WHEELS Global Foundation (WGF), Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO) and VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS (VFW) and MOVE! Weight Management Program in developing the “Veteran Obesity Awareness Campaign”. Leaders representing each of these groups signed the official document, pledging to work together in the campaign supporting in at least one hundred VA facilities throughout the continental United States .
“The goal of the campaign is to support in one hundred VA facilities throughout the continental United States,” he said. Towards this end, AAPI has formed an adhoc committee to oversee its functions, consisting of Dr. Samadder, President of AAPI, Dr. Vikas Kuarna, Chir; Dr. Uma Koduri and Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Co-Chairs.
“Coming from a nation that has given much to the world, today physicians of Indian origin have become a powerful influence in medicine across the world. Nowhere is their authority more keenly felt than in the United States, where Indians make up the largest non-Caucasian segment of the American medical community,” Dr. Samadder said. “The overrepresentation of Indians in the field of medicine is striking – in practical terms, one out of seven doctors in the United States is of Indian Heritage. We provide medical care to over 40 million of US population, caring for one in every seven patients in the nation. There are 150 AAPI Chapters across the nation and it has an ever growing membership of Indian American Physicians,” he reported.
Providing a brief back ground to the launch and initiative of the Obesity awareness program for the Veterans, Dr. Sammadder said, a few years back, AAPI organized a highly successful “Childhood Obesity Awareness Campaign (COAC)” with a goal to help fight the childhood obesity problem by providing education to the students & their parents. Starting with the Pilot program in 2013, AAPI adopted close to 80 schools across the United States where they are promoting “Wear Yellow” for Obesity& Childhood Obesity Awareness, 5-2-1-0 and Choose My Plate concept with the tag line of “Be Fit. Be Cool.” This success story has inspired AAPI to take on this major challenge among Veterans today, he declared.
Deputy Consul General of India in New York, who had inaugurated event with the lighting of the traditional lamp, said, “We are proud to host AAPI as it launches this significant event for Veterans.” While praising the contributions of Veterans, she said, the United States stands among the top nations of the world due the sacrifices made by Veterans. Describing Physicians of Indian Origin as a flourishing and highly influential community, the Indian official said, “This noble initiative is a great way of giving back to their adopted land.”
Joshua Starks, a retired Commander in the US Army, shared with the audience, his own personal experiences in his own family and among his colleagues in the Army, about the many challenges faced in tackling obesity among Veterans. Describing obesity as a “symptom of the many major problems” faced by Veterans, Starks told the audience about the ways in which the Veterans are affected physically, mentally and emotionally after they return from deployment around the world, while defending freedom and liberty. According to him, the efforts at the VA in Tulsa has helped hundreds of Veterans by the older Veterans becoming mentors of the younger ones, and in the process finding meaning and purpose in life.
Dr. Vikas Khurana, in his address said, “The collaborative launch of the Veteran Obesity Awareness Campaign (VOAC) is a way of seeking to acknowledge and to create awareness about obesity among veterans as a national problem.
Dr. Uma Koduri provided the audience with a brief description of her efforts in Tulsi, Oklahoma in successfully launching Childhood Obesity awareness campaign, which was later on adopted by AAPI at the national level and now the initiative to help Veterans has become a national movement with the larger AAPI taking it across the nation.
Dr. Satish Kathula told the audience of the enormous cost, $200 Billion a year, spent in addressing the obesity problem in the country. This new initiative by AAPI and its partners is a way to educate AAPI members of the problems and create awareness among them and enable them to work towards preventing obesity among veterans and the larger population, he said.
Dr. Raj Bhayani, Coordinator of the event, in his introductory remarks, called obesity a form of “terror” from within us. “If we do not run, obesity will run behind us,” he said.
Rajat Gupta, an Indian American businessman and philanthropist, in his address, said, “With a vision to use technology to enable philanthropy, WHEELS Global Foundation (WGF) is a non-profit organization, that is a pioneer in applying technology to provide solutions to issues related with water, health, education, energy, livelihood, and sustainability.” Founded by the alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), the foundation partners with non-profits based in the U.S. and India to raise awareness and implement solutions for issues related to their six focus areas.
Dr. Sudhir Parikh, representing Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO), which is partnering with AAPI, in this initiative, said, GAPIO is a nonprofit organization and its vision is “Improving Health Worldwide”. GAPIO stands to empower physicians of Indian origin to achieve highest professional standards, to provide affordable good quality healthcare, to contribute to local and regional community development and thereby help to reduce health inequalities and alleviate suffering globally. While lauding AAPI’s efforts, Dr. Parikh offered whole-hearted support to AAPI in achieving the goals of the campaign.
MOVE! Weight Management Program, is another program, supported by VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP), that is part of this larger initiative by AAPI to spread awareness about obesity among Veterans. MOVE! is a weight management health promotion program designed to improve the lives of Veterans. Their goals are to annually screen every Veteran who receives care at VA facilities for obesity, refer individuals to weight management services, and make available different treatment options that fit the needs and preferences of our Veterans.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the nation’s oldest major veterans’ organization, is another partner with AAPI to work towards creating awareness of this major issue. VFW has an impeccable and longstanding record of service and stewardship. Their mission is to foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts, to serve our veterans, the military and our communities & to advocate on behalf of all veterans.
AAPI is an umbrella organization representing dozens of local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, AAPI represents the interests of over nearly 100,000 physicians, medical students and residents of Indian heritage in the United States. It is the largest ethnic medical organization in the nation. For more, please visit: www.aapiusa.org