Last Modified: Friday, September 07, 2012 6:25 PM
Should government declare war on fat?
Do we really want government dictating how much salt we can put on our food, how big our drinks can be or outlawing butter on popcorn? Hopefully not!
But there is a nationwide trend of government officials doing just such things as that, particularly in New York City with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Here in Louisiana, there is a push coming from the LSU department of behavior and community health sciences to get state government more involved in telling us how to knock off the fat.
Informing the public on the dangers of obesity is a public service. Dictating what we can and cannot eat through the force of law is a step too far.
The war on fat is now being pushed in our state because Louisiana has consistently ranked in the top 5 percent of national studies on the most overweight states in the nation. That should not be a big surprise. Louisiana does have the best chefs and best food in the nation, if not the world.
“A multilevel approach is needed,” said Dr. Melinda Sothern, a national fitness and nutrition expert who currently serves as academic program director at the LSU health science department. “We need state legislators to support the grassroot-level efforts.”
One such effort is in New Orleans’ Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana project where the Louisiana Public Health Institute and City of New Orleans health department will participate with community organizations to encourage the approximately 64,000 residents in underserved neighborhoods to use their neighborhood parks and buy fresh foods. That sounds like a worthy goal and project and probably is a good example of how to go about encouraging health eating habits and exercise. As long as it is all voluntary, that is fine.
Last year, Louisiana ranked as the second most obese state in the nation, according to a recent report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At 33.4 percent, Louisiana’s obesity rates are second only to Mississippi, which leads the nation at 34.9 percent.
Sothern, who said she is disappointed that efforts to battle obesity in Louisiana have not been successful, noted there are good policies already in place in schools. She said those polices include reducing the number of vending machines in schools, reinforcing physical education programs, and incorporating local produce in cafeteria menus.
All of that sounds fine also, but as we’ve seen in other areas of the nation, it is but a small step for government to start using the force of law to dictate to people what their dietary choices should or shouldn’t be. Most people will make the right decisions on their own when they have the facts on health and diet.
Diet and exercise are major factors in personal health and welfare and should be taught in the physical education departments of every public and private school. It is also good for community groups to promote the message of the importance of healthy eating and exercise. Let’s keep getting the message out that way. That is the real American way of doing things, not government intervention.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.