Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is Extreme Public Health the Answer?

I'm taking off my "reporter" hat for a moment to share some public health talk I've been mulling over lately. You know the uproar over health care reform and the public option? Of course you do! How about the fury and debate over the state and national initiatives to tax soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages? Or the resistance of businesses, "consumer groups" (i.e. backed by the food industry), and others to put nutrition information on menus and point-of-purchase sales in fast food chains and restaurants?

The list goes on and on of public health initiatives that create waves in the ocean endearingly called "status quo."

My question: do public health initiatives have to be extreme to be an effective solution? (I'm going to leave extreme undefined for the moment...but basically, I'm talking about "extreme" as to the degree it causes public reaction, corporate unrest, and resistance). Or, as I asked my mom, "Do you have to be a wacko to get the job done?" I was being facetious, kind of.

My response after much reflection: Yes.

Let's embrace it!


Joanne said...

I think tje bottom line is none of those items are really "extreme" but that as people we are very adverse to change, so any small shift in thinking or acting- cause panic and fear- even if in reality an extra 5 cents on a can of cola is not really going to alter your life or that of the soda company very much. Fear is powerful, although not always warranted. So yes, any change for public health is going to have some that react in fear, and others that embrace the change. Although I like your Mom's comment, I would reframe it to, "if you aren't scaring or angering someone, then you just are not doing your job right."

Katelyn Mack said...

Thanks for your comment, Joanne. I guess as someone who usually tries to avoid confrontation and not create waves, I have found that the policies and programs that not only seem to be effective, but ones that I believe in (even when effectiveness is difficult to measure) are those that seem to have a lot of opposition. It makes me realize that good public health work will encounter resistance and that you can't be afraid to face it head on!

Kyle Sanders said...

The only way to hamper the rising cost of health care is to create a healthier America. 'We' as a people have not done our part thus far and in response, we need a drastic 'lifestyle reform' either aided by legislation or reprimand for actions that have negative effects on public health.

Katelyn Mack said...

Kyle, I think you are right on. It is not enough to encourage individual behavior change as the Center for Consumer Freedom would have you believe. It will take environmental and policy change, as you allude to in order to create environments that promote healthy decision-making among children and adults. Food and beverage marketing to kids is a case in point -- it really disgusts and angers me!

Kelsey Woodruff said...

I say we tax soda and packaged foods and use the money to subsidize farmer's markets in low income areas. Let's make it easier for all people to make healthy choices, no matter where they live or how many hours a day they work. That will also reduce the cost of health care.