Rochester, NY (WROC-TV) - As your driving around Rochester, maybe you've seen a new billboard. A series of pictures shows local doctors posing with vegetables. It's a new way to get people thinking about the food they eat.
"It's a societal issue, you know as physicians we are trained to treat people one on one," says Dr. Ted Barnett, CEO of Rochester Lifestyle Magazine. "But you need to be able to step back and look at why is everyone having such issues with obesity and diabetes, why is everyone eating this terrible food?", he says.
Dr. Ted Barnett believes that food is a social problem. He and his wife run the Rochester vegan society and have been on a whole food, plant based diet for 25 years.
"Like any good parents we decided to perform an experiment on our children. The experiment was becoming vegan and they've done fine," says Dr. Barnett. As an interventional radiologist, he has seen the problems poor diet and obesity can cause. "So much of the disease that i treat is really avoidable. A lot of it is optional, really. Because so much of it is related to lifestyle."
In Rochester, the problem is very real. About 70,000 people or 9 percent of the population struggles with type 2 diabetes. "And in Rochester it is 40% for most children 50% for blacks and hispanics so almost half will develop diabetes. It's almost like a right of passage," Dr Barnett says.
For the past 4 years, Dr. Barnett has been teaching a class on the whole grain, plant based diet.
Recently he was approached with the idea of the billboards and thought it was a great way to reach a larger group.
He has also trained close to 30 people to help with community outreach. But he hopes the message will spread even farther than that.
"We know that obesity is contagious if your friends become overweight, you become overweight. So healthy habits can also become contagious and that's what we're hoping to promote," Barnett says.
After all, 2/3 of Americans are currently overweight or obese. "I think we're just trying to do the right thing," Barnett adds.
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