Healthy Living Is Best In Fighting Obesity

A judge was right to strike down New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.

The ban was riddled with loopholes and is the epitome of an ill-considered government intrusion into the lives of citizens. It is the perfect example of how not to solve a problem.

And make no mistake about it, there is an obesity problem.

Out of the state’s 62 counties, Chautauqua County is the 13th unhealthiest according to a 2012 report by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute. The report also shows Chautauqua County has a higher obesity rate, 28 percent, than the state average of 25 percent. The county also has more physical inactivity than the state average.

Such unhealthy behavior is costly, especially given the prevalence of obesity and related health problems among lower-income county residents. An October report by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shows obesity cost New York state (and its subsidiary government units) $11.8 billion in 2011, including $4.3 billion in Medicaid spending.

The Chautauqua County Department of Health was recently awarded a $450,000 Community Transformation Grant, to be streamed into the county over the course of two years. The grant focuses on early child care, schools and the community-at-large. According to a summary by Breeanne Agett, grant project coordinator, behavioral and nutrition interventions in schools or within the home have limited success in preventing weight gain in children. To be truly comprehensive and successful, the summary says, prevention efforts must begin with the youngest Americans.

“With this grant, we’ve been tasked by the state Health Department with encouraging implementation of the Complete Streets policy and trying to get some demonstration going that the city is, in fact, following the ordinance that was passed last year,” said Lisa Schmidtfrerick-Miller, grant community coordinator. “We also have a sugar-sweetened beverage initiative to reduce consumption of those beverages by improving availability of healthier choices. The local housing authorities in the funded counties will be implementing smoke-free policies for their multi-unit properties.”

The proposed guidelines and restrictions are good-intentioned, but end up going in the same direction Bloomberg’s health initiatives have gone. The county health department is burdened with the task of solving a problem for which there is no good solution. The program acknowledges that there are public health issues and offers temporary solutions, however government over-regulation will not take care of the issues in the long run.

The county Health Department has as much a chance of solving childhood obesity in Chautauqua County as Bloomberg’s soda ban did – zero.

Government intervention will do nothing to solve the health problems Chautauqua County faces. Instead of leaning on government, parents need to step up and teach their children how to live a healthy lifestyle and make healthy decisions. Children will follow the example set at home.

Until healthy living happens in more homes in Chautauqua County, all other efforts are a waste.