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Carrying the Olympic Torch to Honor You
Each torchbearer runs a small section of the relay, which zigzags more than 27,000 miles through big cities and tiny hamlets, bringing Canadians out in droves to celebrate the flame's passage through their towns. The relay will end Feb. 12 when the flame ignites the Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver.
I've been a runner for 32 years, so naturally I was thrilled when one of the relay's sponsors, The Coca-Cola Co., selected me as one of 20 American torchbearers it would bring to the relay. The Mississippi AFP nominated me, and the AAFP confirmed my nomination. Coca-Cola chose me because I promote a healthy, active lifestyle and encourage civic engagement in my community of Kosciusko, Miss. In the past, the company had been gracious about replacing sugar Coke with healthier drinks, such as bottled water, in school vending machines in our state, so I was glad to say yes to the opportunity.
Running to Honor You
I know firsthand how hard your work is. I've practiced family medicine in rural Mississippi for more than 25 years. My partners and I grapple with the same problems of running a practice that you do. We care for patients who struggle with chronic diseases -- just like your patients -- and many of those diseases are related to obesity.
Combat Obesity With AIM-HI Materials
AIM-HI offers tools for use in the practice, including a guide to conducting group visits for chronic conditions affected by obesity; patient education materials in English and Spanish; the Ready, Set, FIT! school-based fitness education program; and CME programming for physicians.
The most recent AIM-HI materials are a children's book, F is for Fitness, and a DVD, "Make a Change for Family Fitness." Both products are designed for use in your practice.
In addition, the AAFP is introducing three more children's books about physical activity, nutrition and emotional well-being this summer. The books and DVD have been made possible by grants from the MetLife Foundation, with support from the AAFP Foundation.
The medical visit is another platform for change, especially if you set a healthy example for your patients. That's one reason I've been tying on my running shoes just about every morning and getting out there to run, averaging about 30 miles a week. Believe me, people notice. Almost every day a patient comes in and says, "I saw you run, and I know I need to find the time to exercise."
My Date With the Flame
I knew that would be a special moment, but I honestly wasn't prepared for the rush of emotion that flooded over me. I was part of something significant, something rooted in history -- and I was representing America's family physicians to the world.
And then I made my run, equivalent to about one time around a high school track, navigating patches of ice with only one slip. I raised that torch and ran for you, whether you practice in a rural town or a big city -- whether you're active locally or take a broader view, working at the state, national or even international level.
In the face of daunting obstacles, America's family physicians keep on paddling upstream, determined to care for their patients and their communities in a nation that doesn't always seem to respect or reward their efforts. I'm glad the Olympic relay gave me a chance to put down my paddle and pick up the torch to illuminate the amazing work you do.
Timothy Alford, M.D., practices family medicine in Kosciusko, Miss. He is a past president of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians Foundation and a past chair of the (then) AAFP Commission on Legislation and Governmental Affairs.
AAFP Garners Second MetLife Grant for Children's Books on Health, Well-being
Demand for Academy's 'F is for Fitness' Leading to New Materials
Congressional Testimony Underscores Value of Primary Care in Health Reform Plans
More From AAFP
Americans In Motion - Healthy Interventions
The (Kosciusko, Miss.) Star Herald: "Kosciusko Physician Selected as Torch Bearer for Olympics"
(Nov. 4, 2009)