A landmark Louisiana health study will be at the heart of an HBO documentary series that begins Monday and takes on the issue of obesity.
“The Weight of the Nation” is a four-part series, with footage shot in Bogalusa, the site of an important study on heart health.
On Monday, two of the documentary films (“Consequences” and “Choices”) will air back-to-back on HBO, beginning at 7 p.m.
The first film, “Consequences,” includes the story of the “Bogalusa Heart Study.”
The next two films in the series (“Children in Crisis” and “Challenges) will air back-to-back the following night, also beginning at 7 p.m.
“HBO does a masterful job mixing outrage with hope,” said Stephanie Broyles, an epidemiologist with Pennington Biomedical Research Center, who appears in the documentary.
In another effort of HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” project, the first in a three-part series for children, titled “The Great Cafeteria Takeover,” will air at 6 p.m. Wednesday on HBO Family.
All three parts will be shown during the back-to-school season this fall, according to an HBO news release.
Today, more than one-third of adults in the U.S. and nearly 17 percent of children are obese, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It’s a condition that puts both adults and children at risk for developing such health problems as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers, it reports.
“The Weight of the Nation” documentaries were produced by HBO Documentary Films and the Institute of Medicine, in association with NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Partners were the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, according to HBO.
Pennington’s Broyles, who studies the causes of public health problems and their prevention, said she was first contacted by HBO after she and other researchers co-authored a new analysis of the Bogalusa Heart Study.
The analysis appeared in May 2010 in Pediatrics magazine, Broyles said.
“The Bogalusa Heart Study was a landmark study,” Broyles said. “It was one of the first to describe that heart disease can start in childhood.”
Funded by the NIH and led by Dr. Gerald Berenson, a cardiologist with Tulane University Hospital, the Bogalusa Heart Study began in the early 1970s, screening schoolchildren in Bogalusa, located in Washington Parish north of New Orleans, and providing follow-up health screenings through the 1990s, Broyles said.
“Since 1973-1974, the proportion of children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years who are overweight ... has more than tripled, from 14.2 percent to 48.4 percent in 2008-2009,” Broyles and other researchers, including Berenson, reported in the new analysis published in 2010.
Of the HBO documentary launching on Monday, Broyles said, “It was so neat to be a part of that. Especially seeing the quality coming out. HBO did a fantastic job on this. They really confront some tough issues.”
Some of those issues are with the country’s food systems and the fact that the cheapest foods are the most unhealthy; the healthy foods the most expensive, she said.
Coletta Barrett, registered nurse and vice president of mission for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, facilitated a public discussion that followed a screening of one of the films on May 10 at the Shaw Theater.
“I hope (the documentary) raises awareness and enlightenment,” said Barrett, who is the chair of Mayor Kip Holden’s Healthy Cities Initiative Board.
“I’m really proud of the people of Bogalusa sharing their stories and health histories,” she said.
More information and resources on the documentary, including discussion guides, are available at http://www.hbo.com/theweightofthenation.