Friday, October 14, 2011

Is Michigan's Governor Snyder Taking the Wrong Approach Towards "Curing" Obesity ?

exercise Recently, Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder announced his special message on Health and Wellness. Snyder reiterated his two objectives on health : Obesity and Infant Mortality. Both can be found on the Governor's dashboard, giving indicators on how well/not well the state is meeting suggested targets relative to these issues. To gather interested lawmakers and key stakeholders, there have been 2 summits to address each of the aforementioned issues. The Obesity Summit took place in September, and the Infant Mortality Summit will take place October 17th. Each of these Summits has been charged with "develop[ing] practical, implementable policy recommendations that will improve Michigan’s health" (Snyder, 2011). Has that happened in the case of Obesity?

The Obesity Summit started as a day full of promise but quickly turned into examining the same strategies we've known for decades. Snyder has announced he will be promoting the use of the state's website to monitor BMI for not only himself and MDCH Director, Olga Dazzo, but will start monitoring Michigan Children's BMI through the MICR. Once the state's immunization registry, the MICR system is now being used as a data warehouse to hold a plethora of information regarding the health of children and adults, who have been included in the data since MICR's inception. MICR information is not only available to Pediatricians, but to daycare providers, school officials, Public Health Workers, Hospitals, and Health Plans as well as others. This means we're assigning yet another number to children, an inaccurate measure on many counts.

Furthermore, suggestions arising from this Summit focused on a sin tax on "unhealthy foods", a regressive tax which will disproportionately affect the poor (an increasing segment of our population in Michigan) while not addressing the root of the problem. Rather than focusing on what we currently are and telling us what to buy (or not buy), why don't we give children and adults the opportunity to lead healthier lives? Use the carrot rather than the stick to induce healthier behaviors and lifestyles. How about instead of stigmatizing the overweight and obese by making our BMI public, we work towards achieving HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE? We don't need to be shamed into submitting, but only give us the tools and we will decrease our health risks.

Possible alternatives to a fat tax:
  1. Promote 2 15-minute breaks each day in partnership with public and private enterprise to provide the opportunity to walk/exercise and enjoy the fresh air
  2. Subsidize and fund ONLY healthier nutrition options in schools to children
  3. Endorse Farm-to-School and School Garden Initiatives
  4. Encourage families to engage in outdoor activities
  5. Incentivize growth of youth farm stand projects and healthy corner stores in places with limited food resources
  6. Provide low-cost equipment to schools for physical activity (i.e. jump ropes, balls, etc)
  7. Set an example by having healthy foods at office celebrations
  8. Advocate walking groups at workplaces, schools, churches, etc.
  9. Reinvest in our schools' physical education through mandating gym class EVERY DAY
  10. Push for healthier foods for all institutionalized populations (i.e. hospitals, mental facilities, prisons)
  11. Champion Safe Routes to Schools, Walking School Buses, Complete Streets, and Bike/Walking Paths

These are just a few options of which there are many to promote health without causing stigma and shame for those who are overweight and obese. By looking at the problem on such a superficial level as only weight and BMI, we feed a preoccupation with being thin rather than healthy.

Please feel free to share your suggestions as progress towards leading Healthier lifestyles!

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