Lessons From China

About a quarter of all Americans are obese. This week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that obesity-related diseases account for an estimated 147 billion dollars in medical costs annually in the United States.That's 9.1 percent of all medical spending, up from 6.5 percent in 1998.

If you do the math, the report suggests we could pay the entire ten-year trillion-dollar bill for health care reform by lowering our obesity rate from 25 percent to 8 percent and thereby saving 100 billion dollars annually. And after ten years we'd have 100 billion dollars a year left over.

Obviously, we're failing miserably to curb the obesity epidemic. But is there a country with a low obesity rate that we can look to as an example? China comes immediately to mind. In recent years the obesity rate in China has soared as urbanization and Westernization have introduced an unhealthier diet and more sedentary lifestyle. But traditional Chinese culture still serves as a model we can study, leading to an obesity rate of only 2.6 percent in 2002. Just as experts are looking to countries around the world for ideas on how to fix our broken health care system, we should be exploring the traditions of other cultures - now and in the past - for ideas on how to follow healthier lifestyles.

During this week's CBS Doc Dot Com, I visit two Chinese physicians practicing in New York City who are trying to integrate the best of Eastern and Western medicine.

Eastern Medicine In Western Culture
The Benefits Of Acupuncture
An Eastern Medicine Exam
Western Medicine For Chinese Patients
Western Medicine For Chinese Patients Pt. 2