Seven of the top 10 causes of death in the United States are due to chronic illnesses, two of which, heart disease and cancer, account for nearly half of all deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that in 2012, about 50% of American adults (117 million people) were burdened with one or more chronic health conditions (1).
Many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers are largely fueled by the obesity epidemic. According to recent data, approximately 35% of U.S. adults are obese, and over two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese (2). Peer reviewed medical studies indicate that by amending lifestyle factors including diet, physical activity, cigarette smoking, and body weight, we could prevent nearly 80% of chronic diseases that gravely compromise our quality of life (3).
Total health care costs in the U.S. were 2.9 trillion dollars in 2013 (2), with 86% of these dollars utilized to manage chronic illness (4). In 2016, despite extraordinary advances in diagnostics, as well as surgical and pharmaceutical interventions, we continue to witness increasing rates of some chronic diseases. How do we change this paradigm?
code blue is a feature length documentary that reveals insufficiencies in the current state of medicine and provides a common sense solution by featuring the practice of lifestyle medicine to prevent, treat, and manage disease. It presents the hurdles to the proposed shift: why is this not an integral component of the curriculum taught in medical schools? Why does this not resonate with the majority of current day practicing physicians? What is causing the lapse in communication to the general public? The unwillingness of some to believe that the American public—addicted to the quick fix—will embrace lifestyle changes is also addressed, as well as the undercurrent influences of the pharmaceutical and food industries that help shape public policy.
code blue follows the story of a passionate physician, Dr. Saray Stancic; medical student, Saul Bautista; and expert physicians/scientists who have the foresight to envision the potential of incorporating lifestyle medicine into clinical practice. Interwoven between these stories are successful individuals and organizations, as well as the personal narratives of chronically ill patients who learn to embrace this revolutionary method of medical treatment.
The project includes footage of medical students learning culinary medicine and growing vegetable gardens, a hospital and a doctor using farms to promote healthy behaviors, a cardiologist walking with patients, a lifestyle medicine physician food shopping with her patient, scientists in research labs, as well as the uniting of patients, medical students, and doctors who walk and run races together to promote exercise.
We are filming the efforts of those who are already implementing initiatives for change, and interviewing experts who are pioneers in the discipline. This will include leaders like Dr. Dean Ornish of the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Neal Barnard of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington D.C., Dr. Elizabeth Frates at The Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. David Sabgir of "Walk with a Doc" program, and Dr. Jennifer Trilk at University of South Carolina Medical School in Greenville, where they have already integrated a lifestyle medicine core curriculum. code blue explores the question of how to reshape the current practice of medicine in order to empower both physicians and patients to take control of their personal health outcomes by prioritizing prevention.
The massive explosion of chronic disease in the U.S. is leading toward an era in which healthcare workers, medicines and treatments, hospital beds, and physician-patient time has been overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Americans are largely unaware of the toll their lifestyle habits take on their health. When they view their eating habits, 90% of Americans believe their eating habits are healthy. However, a 2013 survey found only 13.1% meet fruit intake recommendations, and only 8.9% eat enough vegetables (5). Compounded by our disordered eating, our society “largely relies on drugs to correct our health issues,” said Dr. Stancic in "Off Script", an article published in dirt magazine (6) . She believes drugs have become a modern day enabler, giving patients license to stick with bad habits by masking the symptoms of disease. “Little credence is given to lifestyle as a therapeutic approach to prevent and manage disease, despite the fact that we know lifestyle is a more effective therapeutic approach than a drug in many instances”, she notes.
"Once we get on the pharmaceutical bandwagon, it gets hard to come off,” she said. She knows this firsthand. Dr. Stancic was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of twenty-eight, in the last year of her medical residency. At that time, a neurologist told her that if she did not take her prescribed medications to prevent progression of MS, she could expect to be in a wheelchair by the age of 40. code blue recounts Dr. Stancic’s desperate search for help in managing her disease, which ultimately led to her present-day practice of lifestyle medicine. Her personal and professional success has led her to disseminate her message and, ultimately, to make this film.
Sometimes you choose films, sometimes films choose you. No matter the order, in my work I look to voice the stories of passionate people who wish to inspire and work for a better future. Dr. Stancic is one of those people, and she aspires to mold the direction of medicine, one patient at a time. code blue is a term used in medical facilities when a patient is in cardiac arrest and needs to be resuscitated for the heart to resume a normal rhythm. It is time to call code blue on the current practice of medicine. Pull the paddles, clear… SHOCK…. a healthier future awaits us.
Dr. Stancic, Anne Bertasso, Donna Tarzan, Emily Kahoud and I have been working for the past few months on gathering a group of students, doctors, experts and patients to join our project. We have done some initial filming and now we need your help to continue the project.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Kickstarter, it is a place where creative people seek funding from the online crowd. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing funding model, so we need to raise the full amount in order to receive any funding at all. The goal is to get this project seen by as many people as possible. So, in addition to giving to the campaign, you can also help by sharing and spreading the word via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, E-mail, telephone or word of mouth.
Marcia wears many hats in her productions. She can be behind the camera, holding the microphone, or seated in the editor’s chair in addition to directing and producing. Txai Macedo, her first feature documentary, aired on Channel 13 in New York City and TVE Brazil. It was distributed for ten years by Icarus Films in New York and today is part of the Smithsonian Media Collection. Dreaming On: The Story of the Quandamooka People, her second feature documentary released in 2014, has screened in festivals in Europe and in the United States and it is still in educational distribution negotiations.
Dr. Stancic is currently practicing Lifestyle Medicine in Ramsey, NJ. She graduated from New Jersey Medical School in 1993. In 1999, she was appointed Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Hudson Valley Veterans Administration Hospital in New York. She was later recruited by Roche Pharmaceuticals to develop new treatments for chronic Hepatitis infections. She has been an invited author for Forks Over Knives, was interviewed by Mitchel, M.D. for the podcast Healing through Nutrition, was the subject of a cover story in the August 20, 2015 issue of Dirt Magazine, and was named one of the “17 People to Watch in Health in 2015” in the January 2015 issue of 201 Magazine. She has spoken to diverse audiences, from mothers to medical students, on the impact of Lifestyle Medicine.
Tania’s films and videos have won international awards, including Best Documentary at the Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino, the Pan African Film Festival, and Fespaco. They have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hong Kong Arts Center, the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival. Her television credits include documentaries for PBS, the History Channel, NHK in Japan, GNT in Brazil, and Channel 4 in England. She has also worked on productions for Bill Moyers, Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones and Nelson Pereira dos Santos.
Emily brings her journalism and health care experience to the production. She graduated from Boston College where she double majored in biology and music. After earning a certificate with distinction at Cornell, she worked in infectious disease/immunology research at Massachusetts General Hospital. In Boston, Emily wrote for Spare Change News/The Homelessness Empowerment Project, and helped edit grants and manuscripts for submission to numerous science journals. She is now a contributing journalist for Straus News in New York and New Jersey and an adjunct professor at SUNY Orange.
Anne has approximately 30 years’ experience as a research scientist in both laboratory and clinical studies, primarily in infectious diseases and oncology. She has over two dozen papers in scientific/medical journals. She is a certified distance run coach and is certified in general nutrition, wellness, and sports nutrition. She started running several years ago and has since run a number of endurance races, including marathons, and recently completed an event totaling 48.6 miles. She is currently a marathon coach for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program.
Donna is a Registered Nurse in New Jersey and New York. Her nursing experience is in acute medical/surgical care, critical care, and mental health. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology. With over 10 years of experience in personal fitness and lifestyle modification through health and fitness, she has trained clients with medical conditions to become athletes. She is herself a two-time Ironman Lake Placid finisher and continues to challenge her fitness goals.
Julia, cinematographer and photographer, started working in the film industry at the age of 18, participating in approximately 33 feature films, among them The Incredible Hulk, Cidade Baixa, and Rio I Love You. Julia has worked in commercial ads since 1999, and has worked with many cinematographers from around the world. She is currently a director of photography for commercial ads and has just finished a feature film as a cinematographer, The Last Virgin, which will come out in November 2016.
Gabriela is a graduate student in Interactive Media. Her areas of expertise include film, multimedia design, photography, and animation. She has degrees in Visual Communication and Digital Media. She attended film school in Australia where she worked on several film projects, both on set and post-production. She worked with filmmaker Marcia Machado with on the documentary Dreaming On: The Story of the Quandamooka People as an editor and production assistant. She has worked as a media intern at Yahoo! Middle East and won the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award for her short film A Metaphor of the Mind.
Peter studied Global Public Health at New York University while completing over 450 hours of arts training at Tisch School for the Arts (including acting, filming, editing, and directing). He is currently a student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, where he continues to use medicine to serve and art to entertain - two forms of healing humanity.
Video clip thank you credits to: Rutgers NJMS, FITDocs, Holmesburg Christian Academy. Additional camera by Peter Rezkalla, original music by Juru, and additional music by Scott Holmes.
1. Ward, B.W., Schiller, J.S., Goodman, R.A. (2014). Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis, 11:130389.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Health Expenditures. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/health-expenditures.htm
3. Ricanati, E.H., Golubic, M., Yang, D., et al. (2011). Mitigating preventable chronic disease: progress report of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. Nutr Metab, 8:83.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm
5. Moore, L.V., & Thompson, F.E. (2015). Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations – United States, 2013. MMWR, 64:26.
6. Kahoud, E. (2015, August 21). Off Script. dirt. http://www.dirtmag.com/apps/pbcs.dll/articleAID=/20150821/STORIES01/150829988/0/SEARCH
Risks and challenges
Your generosity will make this project possible, and it will enable us to begin filming and editing so that we can share our vision and secure the remaining budget from other sources. Getting a film made is a HUGE undertaking, requiring the participation and coordination of a large group of people. For code blue, the demand will be related to time and organization. However, I am working with an amazing group of women connected to the medical field eager to see this project done. The hope is to have the film completed by 2018. It will be done! Thank you so much for your support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)