Friday, January 9, 2009

State Readies Campaign To Curb Obesity Epidemic

Restaurants, Schools Targeted

“Major restaurant chains in Massachusetts would be required to prominently post the calorie counts for all their offerings - at the counter or on the menu - under a far-reaching anti-obesity campaign that Governor Deval Patrick's administration is expected to announce today. The administration's battle against bulging waistlines also calls for public schools to measure the height and weight of first-, fourth-, seventh-, and 10th-graders and calculate whether a child is overweight. The finding would be sent home with students along with detailed advice on eating better and exercising more, with the goal of reducing the incidence of health conditions once almost unheard of in the young, including type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Those measures would go into effect next fall if approved by the Public Health Council, an appointed board of doctors, consumer advocates, and medical leaders that generally follows the recommendations of the administration. Last night, one council member, Dr. Alan Woodward, said he expected broad support on the panel. Woodward, a former president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said, ‘The "obesity epidemic is one of the primary public health threats we face now.’ The Public Health Council is expected to give the rules initial approval next week; a final vote would follow a public comment period. Other steps to improve nutrition and boost physical activity are being implemented directly by the Patrick administration. ‘Our approach here is comprehensive - like with smoking cessation and HIV-prevention, a single message is not enough,’ said John Auerbach, the Massachusetts public health commissioner and chairman of the Public Health Council. Massachusetts is joining New York City and California at the forefront of efforts to reduce obesity. The cornerstones of the campaign - posting calorie readings as prominently as prices in restaurants and measuring the body mass index of students - employ classic public-health strategies by putting information about dangerous habits directly in the faces of people who might not fully appreciate the peril.”

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