Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Tough Game to Win

Throughout our nation's history there have been times when vocal and persistent people had to make the case for paying attention to public health issues.

  • Patent Medicines (leading to the Pure Food and Drug Act)
  • Child Labor Conditions (leading to Child Labor Laws)
  • Manipulation of the public by tobacco companies (leading to regulation of tobacco advertising, also lawsuits awarding communities funds to remediate effects of smoking)

I imagine that even back then there were naysayers and detractors who saw this as mere government interference. Especially those standing to lose profits as a result. Or those who didn't want to let truth get in the way of their ingrained habits.

My own father clung for years to the argument that there was no scientific proof that smoking was bad for your health. He died of COPD/emphysema at 57, and I was sick on and off all through my childhood with bronchitis as a result of his smoking. I had an impressive smoker's cough.

Secret documents from tobacco companies with plenty of damning information finally became available in 1998. My dad died in 1984.

Why today's history lesson? Maybe because those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Study after study shows the link between sugary drinks and sodas with childhood obesity, early onset diabetes, heart disease. A cursory glance at any group of children whose daily intake of these drinks is high confirms the scientific studies. Just look around. And not just at children, at everyone.

It is a serious public health issue. Luckily we have some persistent and vocal people making the case: pay attention! Are we listening?

Now, we can all sit in our comfy armchairs and pick apart the County's recent decision to exclude sugary drinks from Fourth of July festivities at the Lakefront. Help yourself. They put themselves out there, so they have to take what comes next, right? And it makes for lots of extra clicks for the BaltiHoCo SunTimes.

Tomorrow I am going to examine the July Fourth situation in more depth. However, I want to make it clear that any analysis I do is as limited as that of any other armchair critic. I wasn't there when this decision was made. I don't know what led up to it. I didn't hear the discussion in the room when pros and cons were weighed. I just don't know.

But, like you, I have an opinion. To start with I think that getting people to take a public health threat seriously when it may not look obvious to them is an extremely difficult game to win.

So tomorrow we'll play HoCo Quench! -- the Thirst Game.




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