Indian-American physicians, who number some 100,000 according to estimates, are engaged with healthcare issues front and center to the nation. This Nov. 2, in recognition of upcoming Veterans Day Nov. 11, they formally launched a healthcare initiative targeting this group – Veterans Obesity Awareness Campaign (VOAC).
The ceremony to launch VOAC was held at the Indian Consulate in New York where several executive committee members of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin met at a solemn ceremony. They were joined by the Wheels Global Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and MOVE! to strengthen their efforts.
Towards this end, an adhoc committee to oversee the implementation of the veterans initiative was announced, consisting of Dr. Samadder, Dr. Vikas Khurana from VA, as chair; Dr. Uma Koduri and Dr. Satheesh Kathula, co-chairs.
“Eighty percent of veterans receiving care in VA facilities are considered to be overweight or obese and we all know that these conditions make one more prone to catching other diseases, and raising the cost of healthcare further,” Dr. Sudhir Parikh of GAPIO, publisher of Desi Talk and recipient of the Padma Shri award, told Desi Talk. The GAPIO’s vision is “Improving Health Worldwide” and its mission is to empower physicians of Indian origin to deliver on that vision.
“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 adding that one out of seven doctors in the United States is of Indian heritage, providing care to around 40 million Americans.
The AAPI has been conducting awareness campaigns aimed at childhood obesity for several years, adopting more than 80 schools around the country, and that has led to taking up the veterans health challenge.
Deputy Consul General of India in New York, Paramita Tripathi, who inaugurated the event by lighting the auspicious 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 because of sacrifices made by veterans. “This noble initiative is a great way of giving back to their adopted land,” she added.
Joshua Starks, a retired Commander in the U.S. Army, described obesity as a “symptom of the many major problems” faced by veterans. 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 described her efforts in Tulsa, Oklahoma where she launched the Childhood Obesity Awareness Campaign later adopted by AAPI at the national level. Now the initiative to help veterans has become a national movement with the larger AAPI taking it across the nation, she noted.
Dr. Satish Kathula noted the enormous cost of $200 billion a year, incurred in addressing the obesity problem in the country. Dr. Raj Bhayani, coordinator of the event, also emphasized the depth of the problem.
Rajat Gupta, an Indian-American businessman and philanthropist, who represented WGF at the event, said his organization was keen to support the initiative. “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,” he is quoted saying in the press release. The organization was 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.
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. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the nation’s oldest major veterans’ organization, has a long record of service and stewardship.