Battlepanda: Mark Kleiman on Obesity


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Mark Kleiman on Obesity

I found the following points especially interesting. Even something that is as personal as our bodies are vulnerable to circumstances outside of our control.
7. Walking and bicycling burn more calories than driving. Land use and transportation patterns that discourage walking and bicycling thereby contribute to obesity.
8. The food industries, and especially the convenience-restaurant and snack-food sectors, relentlessly market bad eating habits to children. It seems unlikely that their mult-billion-dollar efforts have no impact on actual behavior.

9. It's likely, though not certain, that we could design and implement a combination of policy changes -- regulations, taxes, and services -- that would reduce obesity at acceptable costs in money and intrusion into private choice.
We're a nation of individualists, and most of the time there's nothing wrong with that. But there are problems such as obesity that ails us as a nation, and will probably continue to ail us until we look at the underlying causes on a group level. The problem is, it's a very tough sell. I don't think there is much we can do about 7. as the suburbs and strip-malls paradigm is so well entrenched. As for the food industries, I don't see how we can legislate cheeseburgers away.

I think the most palatable legislations will focus on the children. It's true that Americans don't like being told what they should and shouldn't do. But we recognize that children are too young to make sound eating decisions and are uniquely vulnerable to advertising. Another possible angle of attack is to focus on the health-care costs of obesity on us all -- we all pay into medicare and medicaid after all. The more we can encourage Americans to see obesity as a group problem instead of an individual failing, the more we can convince them to accept regulations put in place to reverse that problem.