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Treatment of chronic disease accounts for more than 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion the United States spends on health care annually, Harkin added.
“As America’s health care costs associated with obesity become increasingly unsustainable, these efforts – aimed at prevention – could not be more timely,”Stephanie Silverman, co-founder of the Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund, said in a statement praising Harkin’s bill. She pointed to “research” suggesting that 10 percent of all U.S. medical costs can be attributed to obesity.
Said obesity epidemic may not be as titanic as the Campaign to End Obesity and others assert, according to the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit “devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices.” In a recent post, the center points to Gallup’s annual Healthways survey, which found obesity and overweight rates slightly increased between 2008 and 2012.
Another study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found obesity among preschoolers has declined slightly, perhaps signaling a breakthrough in the war on weight.
Fat policy fiat
Maybe such studies are proof that myriad government programs — from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity to the multitudinous provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare — are effectively combatting health problems such as childhood obesity.
Or maybe American consumers are making healthier choices in a free market that is responding to demand.
Either way, conservative groups such as the Center for Consumer Freedom argue the government shouldn’t put its nose in the business of consumer choice, whether it be Bloomberg killing big gulp sodas in New York City or the federal government mandating bike racks for government employees through Harkin’s legislation.
“What I most certainly do have a problem with is the federal government using public resources and policy fiat to construct the bike-path-using, salad-eating, quinoa-cookin’ society of their crunchiest daydreams because that’s how theythink society should look,” wrote Erika Johnsen in a Sept. 4, 2012, post in the conservative online news site Hot Air.
“Bureaucratic endeavors to instill top-down virtue almost never fail to fall spectacularly flat, and usually come with a whole mess of unintended consequences and hidden costs, or even end up achieving the opposite of their intended effect,” she added.
Such government programs often pick winners and losers, and the would-be winners already are getting behind Harkin’s bill.
The Packer, a trade publication covering the fresh produce industry, applauded the Iowa senator for “again showing a passion for providing fresh produce to schoolchildren.”
“The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is very effective — it increases children’s overall fruit and vegetable consumption, exposes students to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and promotes healthier eating habits,”Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association said in an email to The Packer. “The FFVP is a key prevention strategy for schools; all elementary school students would benefit from expanding the (program.)”
The association gave $77,000 to U.S. House candidates last year, and $22,000 to Senate candidates, according to Open Secrets.org.