Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Childhood Obesity Police Attack

Sandy Szwarc at Junkfood Science is on a roll with several scary articles on what I call the #2 crises in America, obesity. (#1 is global warming.) Her most recent article reports on the new initiative of our new Surgeon General against childhood obesity. Evidently, a plump, rolly-polly Santa is not politically correct:
This is the second news-making childhood obesity move of the new Surgeon General, Dr. Steven K. Galson, M.D., MPH, who took office last October. His first, which gave most Americans their first introduction to him and an idea of what was in store, came in December when he declared that Santa Claus is too fat to be a good role model for children. As he told the Boston Herald: “It is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise... Santa is no different.”
"Important?" To whom? Normally, this would be important to the parents of the child. But now we see the government usurping this responsibility to itself by declaring in effect that it knows better what is good for the child than the parents do. That parents aren't up in arms about this is really scary. Presumably too, a good role model will have to look like an athlete or kids won't be allowed to look up to them as role models.

After revealing just some of the initiatives and the foundations and companies behind them as well as some of the money they stand to lose or waste if the SG doesn't yell crises, Ms. Szwarc reveals another incentive motivating the medical commissar:
In promoting “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future,” he said combating childhood obesity will require efforts from “every level of government and every level of the community.” He said that school programs must carry over into homes in order to combat the number of kids with “weight problems.” He equated public initiatives to make physical activity and a good diet seen as citizen’s responsibility with “what we did to tobacco... and taking it out of society and acceptable social engagement in this country.”
In other words, "we got away with it with tobacco, we should be able to do so with obesity too." Let this be a lesson to anyone who thinks that principles don't matter; that allowing some government control over your life will not necessitate more control. The government already dictates the mental content of America's children, now they want to control the kids' physical behavior as well. What else could be the meaning of "every level of government and every level of the community?" You can bet your grandmother's last nickel that "carry over into homes" includes the use of force, not just a voluntary advisory or educational effort.

And consider the meaning of "taking it out of society and acceptable social engagement in this country." Acceptable? To whom? We know the answer to that now don't we. Make no mistake about it, this is where the parents discover that their rights and what is acceptable to them is not to be included in all those "levels" of government and community.

If this power grab campaign weren't bad enough, It isn't even supported by the government's own evidence:
As such, the country might reasonably expect their Surgeon General to know the government’s own statistics on child weights, as provided by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. These have shown that there have been no significant increases in the numbers of U.S. children considered “overweight” since 1999-2000. There is no epidemic of childhood obesity.

The country might reasonably expect their Surgeon General to have read the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ own Health United States 2007 report, which found no medical evidence of a crisis of childhood obesity or for a critical need to address childhood obesity. Children are not expected to live shorter lives than their parents, but are actually healthier and expected to live longer than at any other time in our history. Babies born in 2004 can expect to live 75.2 years if male and 80.4 if female. Compared to babies born in 1990, boys today are expected to live 3.4 years longer and girls 1.6 years longer.
And:
The country might reasonably expect the Surgeon General to have read the evidence provided by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is charged with issuing careful, evidence-based findings that are supposed to be used by federal government for sound public health programs. After a comprehensive review of 40 years of evidence on childhood obesity screening and interventions, it has found no quality evidence to support or recommend behavioral interventions (diet and activity) for overweight in children and adolescents or that such programs improve health outcomes or physiological measures, such as blood lipids (“cholesterol”), glucose tolerance, blood pressure or physical fitness. Childhood obesity interventions, however, do risk harming children, they warned. The USPSTF concurred with the American Heart Association’s 1996 Scientific Statement for Healthcare professionals in concluding there was no evidence that any interventions to reduce or prevent childhood obesity — no matter how well-intentioned, comprehensive, restrictive, intensive, long in duration, and tackling diet and activity in every possible way — have been effective, especially in any beneficial, sustained way.
The article closes by asking:
If the Surgeon General and the HHS are not actually following science or medical evidence, even the government’s own, what are these programs really about?
They're about how principles, when accepted even only partially, will grow by virtue of their own merit, and how, if one doesn't want them to grow, they must be repudiated in their entirety.

Ms. Szwarc's next piece titled "
From the Food for Thought file: Can you be fired for eating a cookie or a steak or enjoying a glass of wine after work?
By Delaware News Journal reporter Eric Ruth, says in effect, that it is getting to look that way.

In still another post, it is reported that an honor student was suspended for buying a bag of Skittles. What has this to do with developing a child's conceptual faculty? Absolutely nothing.

I recommend spending some time at Junkfood science's site. One thing you will see repeatedly will be studies that do not support the sensational, alarmist wording of their press releases.
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