If the academic well-being of our children is worth engendering and accrediting by a way of curricula and diploma, all in the name of a meaningful, productive life, then why is the same no longer true for their physical well-being? After all, it is the flesh and blood foundation for their academic exercise, and further, for their and the nation’s competitiveness in the family of nations. How have we allowed these two supporting pillars of education to be separated in drawing up the blueprints for our national child-rearing? Have we become so shorted-sighted, personally indulgent, and fiscally irresponsible that somehow we now see the physical well-being of our children as having entered the realm of a luxury?
In matters of career opportunity, access to health care, and now nutritional foods, we continue to see a widening in the gap between the haves and have nots in the USA, even as that gap continues to close in nations like Brazil which was once the poster-child for such disparity.
Yesterday, in an opinion piece that ran in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. David Ludwig, a child obesity expert at Children’s Hospital in Boston, suggested that some parents should lose custody of their children if those children are severely obese (two million children fall into that category nationwide). Ludwig’s contention, that state intervention would be a preferable solution for such severely obese children, stirred up a hornet’s nest of criticism from both within the professional fraternity and outside it, as well.
“In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint,” wrote Dr. Ludwig along with co-author Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, “because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems.”
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive,” wrote one responder to an ABC News story. Other physicians and child-experts found no evidence that state intervention would lead to a better outcome for severely obese children in the long term, and may well, in fact, create the opposite effect in the near term.
But with obesity now a universally acknowledged problem, both for individuals as well for our health care system which must take increasingly costly measures to deal with it, and thereby continue to compromise America’s competitive health in the stripped down globalized market, the question becomes, how much government intervention is properly warranted? And how much of a partner can the government expect to find in those for whom profits are tied to our unhealthy eating?
THIS IS SENSIBLE?
To show how powerful the winds buffeting Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, and all others fighting the childhood obesity problem are, the Washington Post reported on Sunday that a group of food manufacturers, fast-food chains, and media companies have teamed up to battle government efforts to create voluntary nutritional guidelines for foods marketed to children. What’s more, the depth of the group’s purse is such that the person overseeing the Orwellian-named Sensible Food Policy Coalition is Anita Dunn, the former Obama White House communications director.
Made up of corporate flagships like General Mills, Kellogg, PepsiCo, and Time Warner, the coalition spent $6.6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of this year alone, according to the Washington Post, and collectively earmarked nearly $60 million in lobbying efforts since the beginning of the Obama administration. Whatever work is being done by small non-profits like Running USA, those millions in lobbying create a din of free speech that will be hard to suppress or shout over.
In much the same vein as the Supreme Court’s decision last year equating unlimited corporate and union spending on election campaigning with First Amendment free speech rights, the ability of the food giants to protect their profits at the expense of the nation’s health seems a step too far when considering the issue of personal freedom. Why is there a Food and Drug Administration in the first place if not to protect the public against the natural rapacity of unregulated conglomerates?
But much like it took the better part of 50 years to fully stigmatize and legislate bans on cigarette smoking, even as the industry fought tooth and nail to deny the health risks, so, too, should we begin a long-range, society-wide campaign, public and private sector alike, to instill the need for healthier eating tied to an exercise regime. But nothing that has taken this long to gestate will be changed quickly. With groups like the Sensible Food Policy Coalition having purses so deep, profits so large, and entrenched ties to politicians that are so partisan and amenable to lobbying, you can believe that the same gap that separates the vision of the left from that of the right will continue to separate the healthy from the unhealthy to the detriment of us all for a long time to come.