Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Obesity And Diabetes Are Not An Individual's Problem

Oh. A trend!

A few weeks ago I posted a report by the UK's Government Office for Science which said:
"The obesity epidemic cannot be prevented by individual action alone and demands a societal approach."
"The people of the UK are inexorably becoming heavier simply by living in the Britain of today. This process has been coined 'passive obesity'."
I lamented that government agencies in the US still frame America's weight problem as the creature of an individual's nefarious choices. "Eat less refined corn and soy products!" they say, as if our weight problem is our fault.

It's incomprehensible to me that those same agencies, backed by Congress, turn around and fund the production of those very corn and soy products they tell us not to eat - making them cheaper, more accessible, and, well, downright popular.

It's as if the USDA is saying, "Don't eat corn! Wait ... Eat corn! Wait ... Don't eat corn! Wait ... Eat corn!"1

Oh, look. Adam Drewnowski, director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington also thinks it's incomprehensible:
"Drewnowski finds it ironic that the Agriculture Department encourages people to eat vegetables like lettuce or carrots that are not subsidized, and therefore more expensive, while giving people an economic incentive through subsidies to buy foods it says they should eat sparingly."
- Fat? Blame Congress, At Least Partly
Maybe it's not incomprehensible. If the government blames obesity on us, they don't have to change their policies.

King Corn

Since I'm talking about corn, I may as well interject this 2-minute trailer for King Corn, "a documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation." (Was that Michael Pollan?)


Back To My Trend

Two groups in New York City (the City University of New York, Campaign Against Diabetes and the Public Health Association of New York City) have come out proclaiming that obesity and diabetes are not an individual's problem. Bless their souls.

Here's the report they published in September, 2007 (warning, it's a 12mb pdf file):

Reversing The Diabetes And Obesity Epidemics In New York City: A Call To Action To Confront A Public Health, Economic And Moral Threat To New York City’s Future

They state:
"For the most part, our society has viewed diabetes as an individual problem, requiring people at risk to eat less, move more, and follow their doctors advice more consistently. In our view, this simplistic perspective ignores the major role that our social and physical environments play in shaping the choices individuals make."
Made my day.
1 Someone needs to do away with the USDA's conflict of interest. I feel for them.
Thanks to Food Law Prof Blog for the link to the article in the Danville Register & Bee.

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