That’s Healthfotainment!

by Cindy Rodríguez
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Most in the audience seem to connect with Oz. They listen attentively. Some take notes. Some admire the doc’s good looks. One middle-aged woman, sitting in the back row, quips to a friend, “He can operate on me anytime."

Oz said he tries to keep the hour-long show upbeat, surprising, and fun. A typical episode has one segment on nutrition, another on how to detect an illness, another on an exercise technique, and there is usually one taboo topic (discussed in what he calls the show’s “no embarrassment zone”), such as how to read your health in the appearance of your stool, or what our bodily gas tells us. Today, it is about why women feel a need to urinate more often than men do.

A volunteer from the crowd is brought onstage and Oz directs her to hold a balloon filled with nearly a liter of water, about the amount women can keep in their bladder. Then, pressing down on the balloon with his hand, he demonstrates how the uterus pushes on the bladder. As he presses, water squirts out. “Men, generally speaking, don’t have to deal with this problem,” Oz says.

In October, a month after it premiered, The Dr. Oz Show was already one of the top syndicated shows, averaging 4.25 million viewers an episode, based on Nielsen ratings. Overall, it ranked number 13. The Oprah Winfrey Show came in fourth.

In many ways Oz is using a formula that catapulted Oprah to media baron status: teach people to lead healthier lives. But Oz realizes that knowing what’s good for you isn’t enough. Society needs a nudge. For that reason, he thinks there should be more health policies that create fitness incentives.

“We have to make it easier for people to make healthier decisions,” Oz said. “That means having fresh and affordable produce at corner bodegas. Have gyms at workplaces. Where I work, Sony subsidizes the healthy food, so you have to pay more if you want french fries.”

Do people still buy them? “Yes, but not as much as before.”

Cindy Rodríguez

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