The Puerto Rican government has just tabled a bill that would see parents with obese children fined up to US$800 if they don't ensure their offspring lose weight. This government is clearly at a loss in the fight against childhood obesity and its latest attempt is a panicked, or at the very least desperate, public health response.Fining parents eye-watering sums because their kids are not of proportions approved by the state? Surely as fascistic an idea as we've seen to date!
Obesity on the whole, however, is a lower socio-economic problem – the argument could be made that obesity is the least of their worries. Any solution that fines those already struggling to live day-to-day is a recipe for disaster.Of course it is, not to mention deeply immoral. The bill should be scrapped, the public be given information on healthy eating and left to their own devices, which the author is going to suggest, right?
Nope, course not.
If the government is sincere about helping parents to better manage their children’s weight, then they should take a close look at the eating environments in the most disadvantaged communities. The sizable investment that would be needed to set up this proposed scheme could do wonders in these areas – reduce the cost of healthy foods, establish local markets and vegetable gardens, cooking classes, and so on.Hold on, does he mean make healthy food - which is already very much cheaper than fast food - even cheaper? How will that work? Subsidies or price controls (which are going down a storm in Venezuela)?
Whichever, the "sincere" way of "helping" parents according to this blinkered fool is to spend lots and lots of money setting up a system that nobody wants. As in, lead a horse to water and miraculously make it drink. In public health, it seems to be forgotten that the reason individuals eat stuff professional food bores despise is that they choose to. Set up as many veggie gardens as you like, but if demand isn't there, the supply will just go to rot.
Yes, to tackle a 'problem' which costs the country an imaginary amount of money dictated by computer models created specifically for the purpose by public health, the answer is to spend bucketloads of real cash on initiatives which have bugger all chance of working.
There is a cheaper alternative, though, apparently.
If they're interested in a less costly public measure to help out the parents, they could place a ban on the fast-food marketing that manipulates their children’s dietary choices.Of course. A ban. Public health's favourite 'moderate' response to any minor perceived flaw in their pursuit of a homogenous, perfected, ideal citizenry. Attack businesses, facilitate job losses and harm real people in order to reduce imaginary costs. Great plan!
There is no single answer to combating population-wide obesity, which is the result of so many factors, from a family’s genetics, to location, to income, to education.Correct. And those who know which particular factors apply in any particular situation are the people themselves, so why is public health so devoted to "population-level" solutions which they clearly understand will not work? Is it a salary thing?
The answer to tackling the obesity epidemic arguably requires a cultural shift, a change in approach across all levels of society, akin to what we saw with tobacco in the 1990s.The tobacco template delivers yet again, is there no amount of public health quackery it can't be used to justify? Onward ad bans, sin taxes, display bans and plain packaging for popular foods. Huzzah! Sound the trumpet, get the fat crusade started proper!
Please, for the love of Christ, someone hang these miserable, self-interested, trouser-stuffing puritans. Hang them all.