May 24, 2009
Comparing the tactics of the fast food and soda industries to the tobacco industry, Dr. Nestle cited the widespread availability of unhealthy foods in school vending machines as a contributor to the nation’s increasingly obese child population.
Dr. Nestle’s message bears special significance in New York State, which ranks 18th out of all 50 states in its number of obese and overweight children. The problem continues after childhood; nearly 25% of the State’s adult population is considered obese (BMI ≥30) and another 37% is considered overweight (BMI ≥25), and approximately 40% of people who are obese will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that New York State spends $6.1 billion yearly in obesity-related medical expenditures.
Dr. Nestle highlighted the urgency with which parents in the State need to become more educated about the growing obesity epidemic. In light of the increased number of calories made available to the public by the food industry—700 more calories since the 1980s—State policymakers need to launch targeted efforts to curb the rates of obesity, overweight, and diabetes in New York State. Dr. Nestle also recommended policy initiatives for the State, including limiting the number of snack foods marketed to children, and tightly regulating the school lunch program.
The event was attended by several figures involved in food policy and community health in New York State.