Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
VA Doctor Takes Stand Against Childhood Obesity
According to a recent survey by the United Health Foundation, Oklahoma ranks 44th out of 50 in ‘healthiest’ states. The report also estimates 32 percent of Oklahomans are considered obese.
Dr. Uma Koduri, a primary care physician at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa, hopes to reduce that obesity rate by providing education to elementary students.
“My dad used to always say, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” said Koduri, who has worked as a VA physician for more than 19 years. “Obesity can affect all the organs in your body. It causes hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol which in turn can cause strokes and heart attacks. Obesity also causes other problems like acid reflux, liver problems, gallstones, osteoarthritis, depression, infertility, respiratory problems, sleep apnea and some cancers.”
In April 2013, Koduri organized a Childhood Obesity Awareness School Walkathon at Penn Elementary School in North Tulsa to promote healthy eating and exercise.
The event received the attention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), of which Koduri is a member. The AAPI was so impressed with her efforts to educate youth, the organization gave her a $100,000 grant and asked her to lead a campaign to provide education to 100 schools throughout the nation.
On Nov. 1, Koduri kicked off the campaign with the help of physicians around the nation. She plans to personally visit at least 10 elementary/middle schools throughout Oklahoma.
“It all boils down to simple things that you can do to prevent obesity,” said Koduri. “Basically educate the kids not to eat a lot of processed food, chips, candy and pop. Instead, they need to eat more fruit and vegetables and play outside more rather than just sit and play video games. It’s very basic.”
During her school visits, Koduri teaches students about the 5-2-1-0 concept which consists of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, two hours or less of TV and video games per day, one hour of physical activity per day and zero sugary beverages.
She also encourages participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, a six-week program where participants track their exercise and food consumption online. If they meet minimum requirements, participants receive a signed certificate from the President. Read more about the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.
To reinforce the education, she also gives each school educational posters and 300 t-shirts which feature nutrition and exercise information. Koduri also brings plants and seeds to her presentations and speaks to the students about ways to grow fruits and vegetables at home.
“We want the kids to learn how to grow a kitchen garden,” she said. “Just to show them that fruits and vegetables are healthier and you can grow them in your back yard.”
Following the presentation, Koduri provides the students and teachers with 300 pedometers, a portable device that counts a person’s steps, and leads a one-mile walkathon.
“Walking itself is one of the best exercises,” said Koduri. “When you have a pedometer, you tend to walk more regularly because you want to see those numbers. You want to put in like 5,000 to 10,000 steps per day.”
Koduri said her desire to improve the lives of others comes from her father who was also a physician.
“He used to do a lot of community service and see patients without taking fees,” she said. “He just liked to serve people and educate them for healthier lives. When I was five or six years old, I used to tell everyone that I wanted to be like my dad.”