Policies Entangled in Red Tape: Who Can Eat at a Time Like This?!

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January 15, 2013 by brooksy

I would like to preface this by saying bureaucracy makes my eye involuntarily twitch. Solutions to problems seem straight-forward in my head, but in reality nothing works that way. Everything is complex. Accepting this was a big accomplishment for me during the DC trip. A central theme to each discussion was that there is no simple solution to the obesity problem our country faces. It’s a very intricate issue; lots of changes need to be made (not just political) and lots of people need to be supportive of the cause.

As a future public health nutritionist I already feel frustrated that 100% of the population isn’t as passionate about the importance of nutrition as prevention as I am. I can picture myself advocating for policy to support intervention programs that address obesity…  me on my soap box, with a megaphone and passers by glancing my way as they sip their sodas and eat their hot dogs… yes, I’m that girl. Meanwhile congressmen are literally sitting on top of proposed bills (and also drinking SSBs and eating hot dogs). It sounds exhausting inside my head. I can’t imagine what it’s like in real life. I need a steak and a cherry coke just thinking about it.

This conference exposed me to a variety of non-traditional careers for Public Health Nutritionists, which was very exciting to see that the field is so vast. So even if I don’t want to be on a soapbox all day, there is a plethora of other opportunities for public health nutritionists.

Another critical discussion was about the importance of prevention in healthcare. Prevention plays such a vital role in improving long-term health outcomes, and I am glad the Affordable Care Act is helping to put emphasis on spending for prevention, thus saving significantly on treatment in the long run.

Undesired outcomes and unintended consequences were other themes that arose in the DC discussions. It’s interesting to think about the intention of a policy and watch as something else results. Examples such as eating disorder prevalence from restaurant menu labeling, or free and reduced lunch line stigmas in schools, or the failure of the free breakfast program in schools (they only looked at improved performance in kids, and found no change, therefore the program is seen as ‘unsuccessful’).

Compromise & consensus were the biggest take away messages for me, not just between political parties, but between policy and industry as well. Industry is always portrayed as this evil entity, when in fact they are under a lot of scrutiny and also happen to be making a lot of positive changes. Now, I’m not saying that I love Walmart.  I will always be a dirty hippie at heart. I’m just saying that the media and society do an excellent job of demonizing industry instead of working along side it. Wouldn’t change be easier if Walmart mandated nutrition policies that food companies had to comply with in order to sell their products to Walmart (most companies’ biggest client) instead of waiting around for a bill, which is still tangled in the dreaded red tape, to make it out of Congress alive…

What happened to Bill?

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