May 6, 2005

Culture change key to healthy living: Maupin

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John Maupin Jr., D.D.S.

Culture change key to healthy living: Maupin

Today's physicians must become community leaders, dedicated to changing a culture that ignores and impedes healthy living, the president of Meharry Medical College challenged Vanderbilt medical students last week.

“We must change the culture of America … and begin to get people into a more positive lifestyle,” said John E. Maupin Jr., D.D.S. “As health care providers you're going to have to use others in the community to make change.”

This is a particular concern to the African-American and Hispanic communities, which experience a disproportionate burden of disease and premature death, said Maupin, the first alumnus to serve as president of the historically black medical college.

Cultural and economic factors contribute to the poor eating habits and lack of exercise that are fueling the nation's twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Yet churches and schools — with direction from the medical profession — can help people make healthier choices while staying within their budgets.

“Churches can deliver the message if you empower them,” he said.

Health insurance doesn't pay for healthy living, but “don't stay hung up on what you won't get paid for,” Maupin advised.

“Keep pushing those prevention issues, whether it's in the church, whether it's in the school. We have to challenge the whole notion of what is a health care system.

“In ancient times, the term physician was defined as advocate for the patient,” he continued. “You have to be an advocate for the patient's well-being, not just an advocate to cure the sickness that presents itself.”