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State initiatives to address the child obesity crisis

Posted Jul 01 2008 5:08pm

The Univerity of Baltimore has been publishing an assessment of state’s efforts to address the “obesity crisis” for the last three years.

Their assessment evaluates the quantifiable efforts by state legislatures to pass laws related to addressing the obesity problem. Currently, eight different types of legislation have been introduced and in some states, passed. The types are as follows:

* nutrition standards—controlling the types of foods and beverages offered during school hours

* vending machine usage—prohibiting types of foods and beverages sold in school and prohibiting access to vending machines at certain times

* body mass index measured in school

* recess and physical education—state-mandated additional recess and physical education time

* obesity programs and education—programs established as part of curriculum

* obesity research—legislative support for other institutions or groups to study obesity

* obesity treatment in health insurance—expanding health insurance to cover obesity treatment where applicable

* obesity commissions—legislature-established commissions designed to study obesity

It turns out only three states, in the opinion of the assessment’s authors, are doing an “A” job — California, New York, and Tennessee.

Here’s my opinion. The state legislatures are grasping at straws.

The truth is that there’s been no research on if any of these legislative actions will have a positive (or a negative) impact. But, the states are under such pressure to do something, they are passing laws that seem to make logical sense but may cause more harm than good.

For example, states received points for passing legislation requiring school students to have their body mass index measured and reported to their parents. Is this a good idea? Personally I think it is a terrible idea and so do many others — but laws are being proposed and passed none-the-less.

Before we pass legislation willy nilly, we should understand the true impact of proposed laws so we don’t make the problem worse rather than better.

Allen Oelschlaeger

Author ofThe Straight Scoop About Childhood Obesity

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