December 17, 2008

Will fast foods disappear like GM and Chrysler?

The Los Angeles Times reports today decades of inaction by federal and state governments is starting to change.

It's a small wave, but it's a start in the Right direction. Of course restaurants and manufacturers object, but we can't let them stop us.

Remember the auto industry has fought for 50 years every safety and fuel efficiency standard. Now look where that industry is.

No one can visualize America without fast foods. But I can.

It may take years -- but unless that industry changes along with the tide of anti-obesity standards -- then McDonald's and Burger King and KFC may be the next American titans to fall.

Restaurants are being told to list calorie counts on their menus. Schools are banning bake sales, and cities are outlawing new fast-food restaurants in some neighborhoods.

State and local governments, concerned about the growing cost of obesity and diabetes and the ever-higher cost of healthcare, are acting more like food police. And more regulations may be ahead.

Decades of federal inaction in fighting the nation's obesity epidemic and regulating dangerous food ingredients such as artery-clogging trans fats are behind these local and state efforts, said Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The Obama administration, with large majorities in Congress and headed by a president who made healthcare a centerpiece of his campaign, could launch a new era of food regulation, he said. "The Obama administration clearly believes strongly that government has a major role to play in many arenas, including protecting the public's health."

Jacobson and other proponents of more oversight of what and how the nation eats want to see the Food and Drug Administration split into two agencies, with one focusing on food and the other on drugs and medical devices...

Yum Brands Inc., the parent of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, isn't waiting for more legislation. It plans to add product calorie information to menu boards in its company-owned restaurants nationwide and to encourage franchise owners to do the same. The company said the calorie information would be phased onto menu boards starting this year and be completed by Jan. 1, 2011.

It's a big move by one of the largest purveyors of fast food. Louisville, Ky.-based Yum franchises or owns about 20,000 U.S. restaurants. More...

December 13, 2008

Let's have a Secretary of Food

December 4, 2008

Here's what Obama needs to do

The Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law presented to the Obama Transition Team a list of legal and policy recommendations to help reduce obesity in America.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue where Congress can "bail-out" the nation's youths.  It will take enormous effort and focus. And it must be done or all the money we pour into the health system will be wasted.

These recommendations are dense, complex and easy to dismiss as might not work. But it's a good start for the Obama administration.

BOSTON Nov. 24– President-elect Barak Obama’s Health and Human Services Transition Team today was presented with a series of nearly 50 legal and policy recommendations designed to combat the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The document, developed by the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University’s School of Law, was sent to the Transition Team by Richard Daynard, a professor at the law school and president of PHAI. DownloadPHAI Obesity Policy Recommendations to Obama Transition Team

“Public health, unlike some other national assets, cannot be ‘rescued’ or ‘bailed out,’” Dayard wrote in a cover letter. “A sophisticated and aggressive federal approach to obesity is desperately needed. “Such an approach could save countless lives and reduce the devastating consequences of this epidemic while meaningfully connecting with healthcare, agriculture and energy policies,” said Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of the Institute. “A failure of federal obesity policy would have untenable public health and economic consequences.”

Among the recommendations:

  • Initiate a mediated public dialogue about reduced portion sizes as a tool for reducing caloric intake of the population.
  • Support adoption of a federal law requiring disclosure of calories on menus.
  • Develop a cultural program featuring popular personalities to elevate the social value of tasty, healthy food.
  • Impose federal taxes, both sales and excise, on purchases of unhealthy foods and beverages and earmark the revenue for obesity programs.
  • Promote and fund innovative farm-to-school and farm-to-community programs across the nation to support local farmers and increase access to locally grown food.
  • Prohibit and remove all commercial  promotion of food in schools and educational settings receiving federal funds.
  • Provide funding through the 2009 reauthorization of the federal Child Nutrition Bill to establish a garden in every school.
  • Establish strict federal regulations limiting food and beverage advertising to children, including the Internet.
  • Shift federal meal programs from the US Dept of Agriculture to the US Dept of Health of Human Services.
  • Include reimbursement for preventive care related to obestity as a structured health benefit.

December 3, 2008

Blue state, red state: color your state FAT

Despite spending billions of dollars Americans continues to wallow in poor health. 

For the fourth year in row, Americans (overall) have failed to improve their health. Key factors are the "unprecedented" levels of obesity. U.S. health lags behind 27 other countries despite spending more on health care. President-elect Obama must do something about this health crisis. And the way to do something is to spend money on prevention and stop the obesity madness.

MINNEAPOLIS (Dec. 3, 2008) — In a disturbing development, the 2008 America’s Health Rankings™: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities revealed that the health of Americans has failed to improve for the fourth consecutive year. Key factors contributing to these results included unprecedented levels of obesity, an increasing number of uninsured people, and the persistence of risky health behaviors, particularly tobacco use.
For 19 years, America’s Health Rankings™ has provided an annual analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis. The longest running report of its kind, America’s Health Rankings™ evaluates a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental, and socio-economic data to determine national health benchmarks and an annual ranking of the healthiest and least healthy states. Despite the discouraging national story, some states are making significant strides against some of the country’s biggest health challenges — demonstrating that there are workable solutions to the most prevalent health problems.

The prevalence of obesity has more than doubled in the last 19 years. An alarming one in four Americans is currently considered obese putting them at increased risk for health issues such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer (endometrial, breast, colon, and gallbladder).

The United States currently falls behind 27 other countries in terms of a healthy life expectancy with an average of 69 years, while Japan leads all countries with an average of 75 years. Some of these differences can be attributed to the inability of the United States to effectively treat disease. The United States has the worst mortality rate from treatable conditions when compared to 18 other industrialized countries. The U.S. has fallen four spots in the last five years.

Today show calls the report "appalling".