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Abigael Gunther

English 3307
Tom Akbari
Unit 1 Final Draft
May 12, 2017

Bridging the Gap Between Professionals and Patients

Last October, Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health
Organization (WHO), made a speech at the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of
Medicine in Washington, D.C. regarding the world’s current nutritional profile. An essay
titled “Obesity and Diabetes: The Slow-Motion Disaster” was adapted from her speech and
published in The Milbank Quarterly, a Multidisciplinary Journal of Population Health and
Health Policy. The audience of Dr. Chan’s keynote address was largely the health and
medical professionals present at the conference. The advantage of having an article adapted
from her speech is that it can be dispersed to reach a wider and more diverse audience –
extending to anyone with interests in health and health policy. Dr. Chan began with a
comparison highlighting that in the past few decades dietary issues have shifted from
malnutrition to obesity. This shift emphasizes the purpose of this editorial, which is to reflect
on future economic, political, and health-related consequences of an overweight worldwide
population.
This editorial is written from the perspective of medical authorities. Part of the
Hippocratic oath that all doctors must abide by is, “I will respect the hard-won scientific
gains of those physicians in whose steps I follow and gladly share such knowledge as is mine
with those who are to follow.”1 A major challenge that faces health professionals is in the
sharing of accurate, medical knowledge with the general populace, especially with the
amount of incorrect and unsubstantiated information that circulates so prevalently today. This
relates to another aspect of the Hippocratic oath where the responsibility of doctors is to also
“…prevent disease whenever [I] can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”1 This text contains
well-documented and researched information to persuade governments and the food industry
to take action in the fight against diabetes and obesity. Evidence of persuasion to take action
can be found in the specific recommendation from this document championing governments
to implement a “taxation of at least 20% on sugar-sweetened drinks.”2 (p.14)
There is direct evidence of a medical discourse community as described by Schnieder.
This is noted in the sentence, “The food industry resists interference from a health agency
like WHO because it has the power to do so. But we are seeing some progress.”2 (p.13) The
‘we’ in this quote refers to the WHO and health professionals that disagree with the food
industry’s policy. This text embodies a specific form of communication, with a certain
purpose and lexis. The way the text is organized and how it presents information is very
specific to the ethical field of medicine and the necessity of sharing information and taking
steps to prevent disease. This is only one facet of the medical field but it is highly significant
in today’s current trend. It varies from other medical discourse communities because it does
not employ excessive technical language and the research is centered more on social aspects
than a specific bodily affliction. It is a commentary on the current state of affairs with the
goal of inspiring an improved lifestyle.
The overall position of this document is to persuade those in a position of authority to
take a more active role in the “fight against obesity and diabetes.”2 (p.14) The author alternates
between personal appeal and objective facts to achieve this goal. Shock, anger, and
determination are all emotions that come through in this paper, seen in Dr. Chan’s sentence
“…stunting and wasting in children...”2 (p.11) The use of statistics, such as “In Mexico City,
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adult obesity increased from 16% of the population in 2000 to 26% in 2012.”2 (p.11), makes the
facts concrete and conclusive, showing the worldwide obesity claim is not up for debate. This
combined method of personal appeal and objective facts ensures that the author’s message
hits home – obesity is a global crisis and its damage will be felt by future generations.
Additionally, the paper’s organization of paragraphs and formatting makes this type
of writing somewhat unique compared to other scientific and medical papers. The first page
consists almost entirely of one-sentence paragraphs stating a different statistic, number, or
fact about obesity and diabetes in a different part of the world, such as the fifth paragraph
“Since 1980, obesity has more than doubled around the globe.”2 (p.11) The author gradually
changes to longer paragraphs, less stating of facts, and more reflection on the implications,
like “If current trends continue, especially in poorer nations, a costly disease like diabetes can
devour the gains of economic development.”2 (p.12) Most other scientific papers target a very
specific population and go into great detail on methodology and results. This article is
different because it connects the crisis as something that impacts everyone in the world
regardless of location and social or economic standing; essentially linking everybody into one
community as seen in the statement “population-wide body weight increases are warning that
big trouble is on its way…”2 (p.12) This is a direct way of broadening the discourse community
that this paper applies to, as implications will be felt by the world.
The diction in the derived article is non-technical and closely mimics Dr. Chan’s
original speech. There is good paragraph and sentence flow. There is also changing cadence,
where the author emphasizes certain parts of a sentence through the uses of commas, like the
sentence “Once a symptom of affluence, obesity and overweight are rising in low- and
middle-income countries, particularly in urban areas, where the increase is fastest.”2 (p.11)
Changing of cadence is meaningful because it engages the audience and preserves the flow of
the paper. The use of everyday language is similarly utilized so the message can be
understood by anyone – regardless of education level. This type of language can be seen in
the quote, “More than half of these people are unaware of their disease status and even more
are untreated.”2 (p.12-13) All of these aspects combine to make a paper that is easy to
comprehend. There was opportunity to go into further detail on the science behind diabetes
and obesity but that would not have aided Dr. Chan’s purpose. She lets the facts speak for
themselves, without the need for superfluous or repetitive words and pictures to convey her
message.
I find that this text does match my expectations of writing in my field. Doctors of
osteopathic medicine (DOs) employ a more holistic method of treatment where patients are
seen as people and not just symptoms, when compared to the traditional medical doctors
(MDs). This writing sample mirrors the DO belief by trying to provoke decisive action in the
prevention of obesity and diabetes. I realize I will need to read and comprehend more
technical types of technical writing, however, this type of document better matches my
current writing style. I believe, as a whole, this text prepares me for the medical
responsibility of sharing and being open with information in order to bridge the gap between
doctors and patients. I have greater confidence in my writing skill with this type of text, but
do acknowledge the need to challenge myself in the future with more technical work.

References:
1. The Sheridan Libraries at John Hopkins University. Bioethics. The Hippocratic Oath:
Modern Version. [Apr 14, 2017; May 12, 2017]
http://guides.library.jhu.edu/c.php?g=202502&p=1335759
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2. Margaret Chan. Obesity and Diabetes: The Slow-Motion Disaster. The Milbank Quarterly,
Vol. 95, No. 1, 2017 (pp.11-14) c. 2017 Milbank Memorial Fund. Published by Wiley
Periodicals.