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Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Santa a Bad Influence on Public Health?

Overweight, Sedentary, and Suffering Sleep Deprivation

Santa embodies a plethora of poor choices when it comes to health, an article entitled "Santa Claus: a public health pariah?" in the most recent issue of the British Medical Journal asserts. In view of the fact that Santa is more recognized than that other icon of popular culture, Ronald McDonald, and may also leverage his considerable notoriety toward the furtherance of public good, Rick and I agree that Santa should change some aspects of his gig. In keeping with the season, we focus our attention on this problem in this week's podcast.

One of the first things Santa can do is forgo cookies and milk, and in some parts of the world, mince pies and sherry, at every stop. Instead he could elect to consume the celery sticks and carrots traditionally left for Rudolph. This would also allow him to avoid the accusation that he is driving while drunk, clearly a habit we don't want our children to adopt. If keeping up his energy is a problem, Rick suggests that Santa could consume that favorite of nonperishable foods, fruitcake.

Santa should also consider a more active role in toy production and delivery. Currently elves are engaged full time in toy production and it's unclear what Santa is doing much of the time. We do see him engaged in very sedentary activity sitting on thrones in shopping malls worldwide following Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, then finally, relying on a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer to distribute gifts. We think a bicycle or running would be a more heart-healthy choice.

We worry that Santa's girth speaks to high risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Of course he has been around for quite some time so he must have good genes, but even those who've chosen their parents carefully can only avoid the consequences of high sugar consumption, belly fat and sleep deprivation for so long.

Other good public health messages would be conveyed if Santa would use a seat belt and wear a helmet when he's roof surfing. For more suggestions for Santa and anyone else trying to avoid the perils of the holidays, please listen to our podcast. And to all, a healthy and happy 2010. Y'all live well.

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