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Building a Better India

HT Summit Speakers CartoonThis week I have the good fortune of having been invited to attend and speak at the 2013 Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.

At this Summit, I am in the illustrious company of leaders in politics, business, arts and sports including the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Condoleezza Rice, Imran Khan, Anoushka Shankar and others, who will be discussing everything from economic and urban development to microfinancing and climate change to India’s role and future in the coming decades.

In my session with the rather ambitious title, “Trimming the World”, we will be discussing the many social, economic and health challenges posed by an ever-increasing rise in obesity and diabetes across the Indian subcontinent (not to mention the considerable impact of these problems in the extensive Indian diaspora).

As regular readers may recall, I have previously posted on the particular susceptibility and challenges posed by excess weight in the South Asian population, who appear particularly vulnerable to the consequences of visceral adiposity.

While public health policies and regulations may eventually provide some hope in Western societies (although progress here may also appear to be moving at a glacial pace), the challenges to comprehensive public health approaches for obesity prevention and management in a country like India present a whole different order of magnitude.

Thus, tackling key drivers of obesity including lack of time, sleep, stress, social norms, food insecurity, sedentariness (not to mention the challenges posed by mental health and medical promoters of weight gain) amongst the billion strong population, will prove anything but easy.

With prevention efforts unlikely to take hold in the foreseeable future, many will have no option but to turn to weight management strategies (including a burgeoning market for bariatric surgery) – services that are largely controlled by private enterprise.

As in the West, finding qualified health professionals, who can offer scientifically based obesity interventions is virtually impossible – not least, because we are still not training health professionals to address obesity as a disease.

These and other challenges are sure to make for an interesting session.

Live and archived streams of the Summit can be followed at CNN-IBN and

You can also follow the summit on Twitter (@htTweets #htSummit)

New Delhi, India


  1. Well done!!!

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  2. Looking at the list of speakers at the Summit, it is clear that you are in good company. After reading this post, it is clear that you have a good handle on what you would like to convey to the outstanding leaders and thought innovators in the audience. Obesity in India does indeed sound almost intractable and options for treatment quite limited. This of course is worse (but not much different) from the Western world. I wonder, are there any uniquely Eastern, and perhaps specifically Indian ways to combat obesity? Is there anything that is indigenous to the culture, mindset, and the traditional diet that might be especially helpful when fighting obesity? Are there any already build-in traditions that can be brought out, strengthened and used much like lymphocytes are ued in the host body? I can think of turmeric used in curry, and the abundance of vegetables and spices in the diet, but is there something else? I have found, when working with clients, that helping them mobilize dormant but historically present strengths leads to the most organic and long lasting changes. I often help my clients find what makes their situation both similar and unique. You can find great strength and resilience in culture and tradition as well as modern science.

    It is great to show what obesity can cost India and why the Indian people are unfortunately more prone to visceral adiposity. It is even more important to discuss the drivers of obesity that you mentioned so that people can have a better understanding of root causes and possible solutions. You will do this beautifully, you will explain in the most brilliant terms why obesity happens and the social and cultural issues that India faces regarding obesity. Just don’t forget to leave them with hope, a path forward, something that they, as leaders can do. What do you want them to do better or differently after your speech? I hope you ask it of them before you are done. I can’t wait to hear your speech at 3:00 PM local time, 1:30 Pacific time.

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  3. Diabetes is a life limiting phenomenon. In line with the rising medical costs, it is wise to get under a diabetic insurance cover to better tackle the contingencies.

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