Mountaineers are the third fattest state in the country, measuring obesity as well as obesity and overweight combined. I don't doubt these findings at all. West Virginians looooove their buffet restaurants, fast-food restaurants, Mom-and-Pop diner restaurants. They especially love their hot dogs. The legislature should adopt the hot dog as the state food. You can buy hot dogs just about everywhere around here. [I'm originally from Ohio, where you mostly have to cook them yourselves. I guess boiling a pot of water or throwing a couple franks on the grill is too much effort here.]
The report was funded by the Robert C. Atkins Foundation, the Bauman Foundation and the Benjamin Spencer Fund. Benjamin Spencer founded Trust for America's Health, which is, according to their website, both non-profit and non-partisan. Each of the sponsoring organizations seem to focus on wellness and disease prevention, which I heartily applaud. From the TFAH Mission Statement:
As a nation, we are stuck in a “disease du jour” mentality, which means we lose sight of the bigger picture: building a public health defense that is strong enough to cover us from all points of attack – whether the threats are from a bioterrorist or Mother Nature.By focusing on PREVENTION, PROTECTION, and COMMUNITIES, TFAH is leading the fight to make disease prevention a national priority, from Capitol Hill to Main Street.
It seems to me – and a caveat here: I didn't read the entire report, only the summary findings for West Virginia – that TFAH's focus is on getting all levels of government to adopt policies that will improve the health of its citizens.
That works so well with alcohol and tobacco, doesn't it?
I'm not saying I have a solution, but I know a thing or two about eating and a thing or three about being fat and a thing or four about being told what I should and shouldn't do. I can't disagree with the report in general, but I wonder, for instance, what government's role should be in helping America go down another notch on its collective belt.
TFAH laments that "most statewide initiatives aimed at the general public are often limited to public information campaigns." Well, really, what else can states do? I suppose we could have a big horn blast us out of bed for a march around the block at 6 a.m., but unless they have the personnel to police us, how many of us would just stick our heads under the pillow until the horn quit blowing?
Okay, that's extreme. Yes, neighborhoods should be designed so traffic doesn't interfere with the ability to get outside and walk or play. My daughter's home is a wonderful example of this, and many people take advantage of it. But it's not compulsory. Schools should offer healthful lunches and should require physical education.
TFAH recommends that the government should "leverage its clout as a major food purchaser to require a greater emphasis on nutritional value as a priority in the bidding process for food contracts, such as in contracting for cafeterias, public-assistance programs, and military meals."
It's hard to argue with that, unless you're a major food lobbyist, who has skills, leverage, clout and money to influence even the most well-intentioned food buyer in Washington, D.C.
As in most things bureaucratic, you have to follow the money. If agricultural subsidies were handed out to tomato and lettuce farmers instead of corn farmers, salads would be a lot more affordable.
This is getting too long. It comes down to this: All I can do is take care of myself. And maybe that's all any of us can do. Until each of us is ready, we'll continue to plop down on the couch after dinner with a bag of chips and a beer, wondering why we don't have the energy to play basketball with the kids.
Except they're playing with the X-Box.