Prevention is the best and most cost-effective weapon against this epidemic, and McKnight says the 1,300 graduates of his Fit For Life program are sending the message that people want to be empowered.
"They are tired being told there is a pill for every problem, but they're not given alternatives," he says. "The primary care docs don't really know better. They're saying 'no, you can't reverse this. This is the way it is going to be.' So people are taking pills. They're suffering through side effects. They are spending a lot of money, but they are still having heart attacks and they're feeling disempowered."
McKnight says improving health outcomes for patients means that primary care physicians have to understand their patients' belief systems, emotional state, and family dynamics at a granular level. That's a task he feels is ill-suited for policy wonks, however well intentioned.
"Washington has the ability to do some things, but this change needs to be at the grass roots where we address the whole person," he says. "It's the message of hope and empowerment that has made this program successful."