From NY to D.C. to Disney, three different attacks on childhood obesity

By Janice D'Arcy
The Washington Post

Whether we knew it or not, this week we witnessed a kind of multiple choice test on childhood health.

The question: What’s the most effective weapon against the childhood obesity epidemic?

A) New laws

B) New expert recommendations

C) New self-imposed industry commitments

All three efforts were unfurled in separate arenas in recent days by a varied cast that included a big city mayor, a crew of former Washington health officials and the company that has brought us John Carter.

All three were met with mixed reactions, ranging from an endorsement by the first lady to a howler of a full-page New York Times ad depicting the mayor of New York dressed as a grandmotherly nanny.

All three have their merits and their drawbacks. It’s unclear which, alone or in combination, may begin to stem the epidemic.   

Let’s review all three approaches, starting with New York.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on restaurants, delis, sports venues and movie theaters selling soda and other sugary drinks in portions larger than 16 ounces.

“The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing,” Bloomberg said Thursday on MSNBC. “We’ve got to do something.”

Though the proposal was met with loud protests and calls that Bloomberg was turning New York into a nanny state (leading to the New York Times ad placed by a group called the Center for Consumer Freedom), experts have long said that soda and sugar-laden juices are a main culprit in the childhood obesity epidemic.

Another tact came in the form of a slew of recommendations from a VIP-laden committee.

Former Agriculture Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann M. Veneman and former Health and Human Services Secretaries Donna E. Shalala and Mike Leavitt Tuesday released their “Lots to Lose” report.

It is an earnest and comprehensive effort that addresses everything from improving school environments to breastfeeding programs to workplaces’ health initiatives.

Alas, it reads like many Washington VIP reports.

Take the report’s subtitle: “How America’s Health and Obesity Crisis Threatens our Economic Future, from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative.”

Or its summary statement: It “identif[ies] actionable steps the public and private sectors can take to reduce rising health care costs associated with the decline of our nation’s physical health and nutrition.”

It goes on to offer suggestions such as: “Develop national physical activity guidelines for children under six years old; Develop an effective national strategy for disseminating this information and educating parents about the benefits of first foods and physical activity, particularly for populations that are most at risk for poor nutrition and health.”

 

Read the full article here.