Friday, July 27, 2012

How long before a Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Obesity?

As of today Michael Bloomberg's involvement in the combat against obesity seems limited to his initiatives as Mayor of New York, although their ripple effect go well beyond the city limits. I wonder how long it will take before it also becomes a philanthropic initiative on the model of his Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use?
Since 2006 Michael Bloomberg has invested $595 million ($125 million in 2006, $ 250 million in 2008, $220 million in 2012) in this initiative that was started after the tobacco control program launched in New York City with former Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden ( now CDC's Director since June 2009) replaced by the present Commissioner Thomas Farley.
How could such a Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Obesity take place? The same way the tobacco control program was developed: beyond the New York City's ongoing projects to reduce obesity, many key decision makers and organizations are already joining forces as they did most recently during the National Soda Summit, to request a Surgeon General's Report about the health impact of sugary drinks or to produce The Weight of the Nation documentary.
The tobacco control initiative involves seven main partners: the World Health Organization, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the CDC Foundation, the World Lung Foundation, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (that committed $125 million in 2008).
Can you imagine a similar coalition to manage an initiative to reduce obesity?
How long will it take?
Here is an interview with Youfa Wang who heads the Global Center on Childhood Obesity at Johns Hopkins.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Look at what Bill McKibben writes and does about climate change: nay inspiration for obesity control?

I think there is plenty to emulate. Taking on the fossil fuel industries and taking on the drink and food industries.

Diabetes: how to combat a silent and costly killer? Why is DHHS omitting obesity?

Visiting the DHHS website to look for information about Secretary Kathleen Sebelius since she has still to respond to the letter asking her to request a Surgeon General's Report about sugary drinks I don't find much (if anything) about obesity control. I noticed that a quote at the top of her biography page is about prevention and its great potential positive impacts. Unfortunately I could not find one instance where she directly addresses sugary drinks issues. I find interesting that Howard Koh who is Assistant Secretary used to be at the forefront of tobacco control advocacy when he was leading the health services in Massachusets. Secretary Sebelius is also very much supportive of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs on this post about "How we can protect our youth from Big Tobacco". Why is it that they both seem so oblivious of the principal culprits of the obesity epidemic, Big Soda and Big Food? How is it possible that Howard Koh writes about diabetes without any mention of obesity control?

Ohio PIRG Report: Stop subsidizing obesity

As presented on the Ecowatch daily newsletter this report explains how taxpayers heavily subsidize a handful of huge farm corporations linked with junk food while very little supports healthy produces, like fruit. The press release.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bananas healthier than sports drinks

This study published in May was funded by Dole Foods. Interesting result and also interesting sponsor.

The Wait of the Nation and The Wait of the Nation 2 or How Bain Capital and Mitt Romney enter the obesity debate

The wait of the nation is an article published on May 24 by Sherifd in Crunk Feminist Collective about the Weight of the Nation documentary.
Interestingly it was republished (in part) in The Root and I came upon it by searching for soft drinks. The Root editors add at the bottom that this article does not represent their opinion... Even more interesting is a second article published on July 16, The wait of the nation 2 that revisits the issues with an investigative twist implicating Bain Capital whose very profitable "health" subsidiaries are targeted in a Salon's investigation.

The "no soda" pledge could start a revolution

The "no soda" pledge started by Katie Sullivan on her blog could start a revolution according to Fooducate that republishes it. I agree. If you look at the comments posted on Katie's blog you can see they are exclusively positive. She is preaching to the choir. It would be interesting to see how to present the pledge to a different audience like... the readers of The Root for instance?

BofA-Merrill Lynch report about global obesity: obesity control is a "megatrend"

As reported in Business Week. “Global obesity is a mega-investment theme for the next 25 years and beyond. Obesity may be the most pressing health challenge facing the world today and efforts to tackle it will shape thinking by policy makers and in boardrooms around the world,” said Sarbjit Nahal, equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to talk/write about obesity in the black community without mentioning soft drinks once

The Root has been publishing a series of interviews and articles about obesity in black americans and recently a conference in DC. What is amazing is that I could not find any reference in any of the contributions to soft drinks or sugary beverages: none. Any explanation? Marion Nestle wonders about influential sponsors. I do too. This post addresses the way the industry has especially and very effectively targeted the black (and hispanic) communities. It refers to an opinion piece published in the advertising magazine Ad Age that salutes such "smart marketing". Disgusting. One more reason for a Surgeon General's report... more explicit than the paper on Oral Health, The Silent Epidemic where Regina only mentioned "lowering sucrose intake, reducing acidic beverage consumption"...

A critical opinion of the Olympic sponsors in The Observer

Here the opinion piece of Andrew Rawnsley (below an extract focusing on health).

Monday, July 23, 2012

The worst Olympic sponsors?

According to They also target Coke for its behavior in India. Mark Thomas about how Coca Cola was also a sponsor of the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The whole documentary is on YouTube.

Product placement: Coca Cola and the movies

Tobacco Control advocates fought (are fighting) against product placement in the movies. The same product placement strategy is used by Coca Cola (and other soft drinks manufacturers) as shown in this infographics that finds the process very positive. This is a key component of the strategy to normalize drinking Coke, while obesity control advocates should push for the exact opposite.

One dollar any size soft drink

On a Seattle bus this morning

Is the obesity control movement taking advantage of the podcast technology?

What about producing regular audio programs (maybe in different time formats) that could be made available via PRX and other platforms? When is the last time you heard a valuable story about the obesity epidemic on your favorite radio? Today NPR airs a story from Alaska about health coaches. Fair enough although how many companies provide health coaches, how many overweight people can afford a health coach? The story does point out to simple choices that made a difference (like quitting soft drinks and moving more).

Big Food vs Big Insurance?

Michael Pollan wrote the opinion piece Big Food vs Big Insurance in September 2009. Almost 3 years later, is such a confrontation taking place?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The men who made us fat is now available on YouTube

There are 12 episodes, all worth seeing. One could imagine shorter segments that would focus on one specific issue as many people will not care to watch the whole program.

A good picture is worth a thousand words

This image was picked up by the Rudd Center from the Wild Alchemist's Truth to be told gallery (scroll down to the very last) that contains a few other powerful ones. It-s always useful to be able to provide journalists with good pictures while they often pick up bad ones if left without an illustration.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Another request for a Surgeon General's report on Soda

Visiting the site of the Center for Science in the Public Interest I find about a letter sent today to request a Surgeon General's report about Soda. The American Cancer Society Action Network had sent a similar letter 16 days earlier, on July 3d. Today's letter is signed nearly 100 health organizations and 20 prominent individuals. One article mentions the effort was coordinated by the CSPI. What about starting a petition to support he letter requesting the Surgeon General's Report?

The Story of Change

What can the obesity control movement learn from The Story of Change? And from Michael Pollan's blog a link to a short video about the Omnivore dilemma on YouTube.

What about stand up desks?

Many articles about the health risks of sitting too much.
An argument for stand up desks from this Microsoft blogger and this article and video from the Miami Herald. And the infographics sitting is killing you.

Can we learn from sumofus? is organizing consumers campaigns... Can the obesity control movement learn from them? Take for instance the campaign concerning the elimination of gestation crates for raising pigs.

Oxfam's America Grow Campaign

Can this new campaign by Oxfam's America have an impact on people's behavior? What about the previous partnership of Oxfam with Coca Cola? Will it influence possible advice about sugar drinks?
New York Times article. Grow's page on Facebook

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The diabetes 2 epidemic in Kentucky

Article in the Kaiser Health News about Gilbert Friedell and his initiatives to combat diabetes 2.

The couch potato goes global

The New York Times expands on the recent articles published in The Lancet about the negative health impact of physical inactivity.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where is the Surgeon General?

Where does the present Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, stand as far as obesity control is concerned? In 2009, she was "accused" of being overweight and therefore disqualified to address this issue. I would rather see that as an incentive. In any case, the Surgeon General can be in a very strategic position, provided he/she is ready to use her bully pulpit. But is she?

International Obesity Forum on LinkedIn

Interesting initiative by Neville Rigby, using LinkedIn to bring together obesity control advocates. As of today there are 598 members.

Olympic Games and Obesity

This post from the blog of Seattle based Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition examines the ads and sponsoring around the upcoming London's Olympic Games (and athletes in general) and Seattle school policies. Another post (among many others) on the issue, and this article by Neville Rigby in The Guardian.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Can apps be advocacy tools? Can they change the labeling debate?

While researching information about the street light labeling debate I discovered that several apps (applications for smartphones) had been created in various countries to help consumers figure out what was in the food/drinks they were considering buying. The first ones I found were from Australia, Foodswitch, launched in January 2012 by the George Institute for Global Health based in Sydney and the Health Insurance group BUPA (an interesting partnership) and another one, The Traffic Light Food Tracker presented in September 2011 by the Obesity Policy Coalition based in Melbourne. I talked via Skype with Pr Bruce Neal who led the Foodswitch project: they do plan to develop similar apps for other countries/languages although he did not want to go into details at this point. I later found out about Fooducate and two French apps, GuidAlim and Proxiproduit launched in early 2010. Interestingly GuidAlim and Fooducate were developed by tech savvy individual entrepreneurs not by institutions concerned with obesity. Considering all those apps have reached and continue to reach significant number of people it would be worth considering what their impact is, can be. Can the app be a game changer in the debate about labeling? After all the app provides the info the industry does not want to share and the government does not dare mandating. Can such apps be used effectively by the people and communities who most need it? Can such apps become potent advocacy tools? Are the US based advocacy groups thinking about those issues?

Recent TV programs about obesity in the US, the UK and France

The Weight of A Nation was aired in May 14/15 on HBO. It's interesting and a little worrying to look at the stats of viewers on YouTube: 1.5 million saw the trailer, 105K watched the first part, 48K the second part, 34K part 3 (devoted to children), 24K part 4. Diminishing audience...
The men who made us fat is a BBC2 documentary by Jacques Peretti aired in June but unfortunately it is not available (for now?) in the US. Parts are available on YouTube. Now (July 20) the 12 episodes are available :)
A French documentary Les Alimenteurs was aired on June 10 on France 5 channel. Maybe available in dvd later? Practice your French and learn about the issues in France.
It is interesting to see 3 different programs on the obesity epidemic aired in 3 different countries at the same time: a common concern, dans l'air du temps...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yale Rudd Center Podcasts

Kelly Brownell has interviewed many experts and you can find the podcasts on one page of their site.
I would suggest a more detailed presentation (including a picture of the guest and a résumé of the talk), a better search feature, a guest list on the side (with direct link to the relevant podcast), etc.
Now the podcasts are sort of hidden.

The Mountain Dew story

This is but one very small part of the Mountain Dew story. The reality is that Mountain Dew is a very toxic beverage as it is consumed in big quantities and not as Pepsi Co would like us to believe as a small part of an otherwise healthy diet. I did try to contact the dentist mentioned in the story but never received an answer. If you google Mountain Dew and health you find horror stories after horror stories and always the same argument by Pepsi Co. Here on YouTube.

Harassing Marion Nestle

Even if she takes it lightly, today's post in Marion Nestle's Food Politics is an example of legal harassment by Coca Cola's lawyers. Marion is so used to it she dismisses it with humor but it is also a reminder of how Big Food tries to intimidate and silence health advocates

About cavities: my aha moment

My interest in obesity control really started as an interest for cavity control sparked by Catherine Saint Louis article in the NYT on March 6.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The American Cancer Society requests a Surgeon General's Report about sugary beverages

On July 3d the ACS Cancer Action Network requested a Surgeon General's Report about sugary drinks. As Fooducate noted on July 9th, this could be a sign that the advocacy movement is getting firmer. The SG' reports about tobacco and health were instrumental in keeping the pressure on the tobacco industry.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The screaming test: when it hurts, the industry protests.

It is worth noting how the industry reacted to Kelly Brownells call for more regulation, as quoted in the LA Times on July 3.