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Dr. Zorba Paster will be in town Tuesday for the P2 Conference

I love Buffalo. I first came here with my parents back in the ’50s to visit our cousins. Mom and I tooled around and went to the Falls, while dad headed off to Rochester to touch bases with the head honchos at the dime store chain he worked for, Neisners.

I’ve returned other times to work with the fantastic people at WNED. They carry my radio show and produced my PBS special. You’ve got one of the best public radio and TV stations in the country. You should be proud.

I love the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and Delaware Avenue, and then there are the wings and beef on weck. It’s far from the healthiest food, but when you’re vacationing it’s time to enjoy the local fare. And I do enjoy.

But unfortunately many people in Buffalo and Western New York enjoy these treats too much. With more than 66 percent overweight, with the burgeoning epidemic of diabetes and heart disease, it’s time to take stock and take action.

That’s why I decided to come to the P2 Collaborative of Western New York conference – Creating a Healthy Community from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens.

Two things are involved in making change – what you do and what your neighbors, friends and community do. The state with the lowest incidence of smoking is (close your eyes and guess) … Utah. Why? Because Mormons shun smoking and they take the lead when it comes to community. This is why banding together as a group to improve our health behaviors is so important.

So you might ask, why should I leave the comfort of my home and go to a conference? Would it do any good? I say yes. Whether you want to shed a few pounds, exercise more, learn how to prevent heart attacks, strokes or cancer, you need the right information to be able to make the right choices.

I have a theory: The world is divided up into two groups – those who take action and those who don’t. Those who want to reach their personal best aren’t couch potatoes. They have three qualities: Optimism, knowledge, planning.

If you don’t have a bright future, why bother to change? If you don’t know what to do, you can’t do the right thing. And, finally, everyone needs an action plan, a 1-2-3 way of going on the path to a “better you.” Those who succeed shine in all three spheres.

Studies have shown that those who have one to two years post-high school education live a decade longer than high school dropouts. Why? Because education teaches you that learning gives you the tools to a better life, better health, prevention, and vigor – what I call a “long, sweet life.” No one wants a life that’s short. No one wants a life that’s long and awful. We want a long, sweet life. It’s worth the investment of time.

But doing this with your community, your relatives, your buddies makes it more fun. And we all want to have fun. Sharing healthy times with those who you love and who love you makes it even better. We’re hard wired to be with others.

My spin: When it comes to optimal health, it’s you and your community. Community counts. Come on down to the P2 conference – I promise it will be as fun as watching EJ Manuel throw a touchdown for the Bills!

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor and author. He also hosts a call-in radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7. For more information on the P2 Conference, see Pages 8-9.