A friend (I use that term loosely) asked me how the program I suggested in Part 3 could be effectively implemented when there is an economic cost of eating healthy and the role the government would have to play in altering that.




He is correct.


It is a fact there are some significant subsidies and a lot of companies with great interests in keeping things the way they are:





I don’t really believe the wacky eating pyramid charts in the article (too many dimensions and % of %’s aspects that make it difficult to put in a useful pyramid … although it is now a plate).



Let’s just agree in the current situation/environment the government subsidizes (for a number of good reasons as well as some wrong reasons) a variety of unhealthy focused items versus more healthy items.


Bottom line?

The government spends an average of $4.6 billion on subsidies for corn and nothing on fruit/vegetables.


And according to a March ‘08 NY Times article, My Forbidden Fruits (and vegetables), farmers are actually fined when they plant fruits and veggies on land that is designated for corn.

(note: here’s a random factoid for you, a Big Mac registers at 53% corn due to all the corn that the cows ate and the high fructose corn syrup so Big Macs – not picking on McDonalds although I like Wendy’s burgers better but they are also in the same situation – are actually partially subsidized by the government).






I guess the point of all these facts is to point out that the existing farm and government infrastructure is not really conducive to a large population shift in eating behavior.




You could pretty much have said the same thing about the tobacco & government relationship at the onset of the anti tobacco initiatives in the early 1970’s. In addition that battle continued for decades before subsidies and government programs actually swung in a different direction.


There were lots of subsidies and “keeping things the way they are.”



It has changed.

It has been a long complex battle but in the end smoking (tobacco) has lost … or let’s say is in the process of losing.


All that said let’s go to implementation (because that will be the way to actually affect unhealthy eating behavior AND actually change the way that government looks at this issue).


I have suggested Unhealthy Eating as an addiction.


And Mortality education is the linchpin to a communications program.



My thoughts on implementation.


I do believe the recent healthcare reform where the government will become more active in day to day health insurance programs should benefit unhealthy addiction programs.

Well. Let me take that back.


IF the new healthcare reform (which, ladies & gentlemen, is unlikely to happen as the government argues over stupid stuff) happens, an unhealthy initiative would benefit.



I have already written here I am not a big detractor of government developed programs. I do believe they do a nice job developing and initial implementation of national programs (ongoing management not so much). So some type of national federally funded initiative would work well here. Let me clarify this also. This does not mean it has to be an actual federal program but rather a national fund where states could access matching funds if they meet some specific criteria (portions of anti-tobacco does this same thing I believe).



I would implement unhealthy eating programs on a state level (primarily).


Similar to anti tobacco (anti smoking) campaigns from day one the most successful case studies came from individual states and in fact success at an individual state level eventually drove a stake through the heart of federal subsidies and the tobacco lobbyist construct.

We should let states take this one on in the beginning.

Some will get it righter than others but they learn fast.


The key is getting some success and some trial & error things in place. State driven initiatives are incredibly good at ‘borrowing’ successful ideas from other states (as well as challenging ideas with the intent of always improving … or simply the competitiveness of ‘looking better than those jerks in that other state).


Going back to my “primarily” comment I would like to note that it was a federal program that created the controversial smoking black lung messaging and drugs scrambled egg and John Lennon ‘imagine’ gun control messaging. I say that because a federal based campaign can create a strong messaging platform. That means, stating once again, I wouldn’t be opposed to a federal unhealthy eating campaign.


I just believe in the end if we really want to get some traction and develop campaigns that will affect behavior they should be implemented on the state level.

There you go. Nothing brilliant here.

In fact I am stealing the successful learnings from the anti-tobacco initiatives.

But why reinvent the wheel?

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Written by Bruce