I was invited along with other experts in prevention and wellness to the White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness in June 2009. As part of our effort to create true health care change, we advocated for an interagency council to support, coordinate, and develop health promotion and wellness movements across all government agencies. In June 2010, President Obama established the National Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health, and Senator Tom Harkin nominated me for a presidential appointment to a 25-person group to advise the administration and the new council. This is a step in the right direction. But there is more we can do. We as a country must send a message to our elected representatives to support health initiatives!
Here’s what you can do
- Call for the elimination of unhealthy foods from all schools, child care, and health care facilities, as well as all government institutions. The government must establish rigorous standards for school nutrition consistent with current science (through the USDA). Similarly, we need to create nutrition programs for other public and government-run institutions such as the military, the Veteran’s Administration, Indian Health Service, and community health centers.
- Support lobbying reform. We must change campaign finance laws so that corporate political donations from entities such as Big Food, Big Farming, and Big Pharma can no longer control the political process.
- Change the Farm Bill. Subsidize the production of fruits and vegetables. Agricultural policies should support public health and encourage the production of fruits and vegetables, not commodity products such as corn and soy. Eighty percent of government subsidies presently go to soy and corn, which are used to create much of the junk food we consume. We need to rethink subsidies and provide more for smaller farmers and a broader array of fruits and vegetables.
- Incentivize supermarkets to open in poor communities. Poverty and obesity go hand in hand. One reason for this is the food deserts we see around the nation. Poor people have a right to high-quality food, too. We need to create ways to provide it to them.
- Build the real cost of industrial food into the price, including its impact on health care costs and lost productivity.
- Tax sugar. We tax cigarettes and alcohol, and this helps pay for prevention and treatment programs. Sugar is at least as addictive, if not more so. Scientists suggest a penny‑an‑ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. This would reduce sugar consumption, obesity, and health care costs, and provide revenue to support programs for the prevention and treatment of obesity and chronic disease.
- Create a public health advertising campaign. Let’s make being healthy cool and sexy and expose the subversive practices of Big Food, Big Farming, and Big Pharma. Use the advertising techniques that best speak to the emotional needs of the consumer and our children.
- Support the creation of a health corps. Our goal should be to train 1 million health workers and champions in communities around the country by 2020. Through the act of getting healthy together, we can create a double revolution change the medicine we do (lifestyle and functional medicine) and change how we do medicine (in small support groups). This new workforce of community health workers would “accompany” and support individuals in making better food and lifestyle choices and cleaning up their homes, workplaces, schools, faith-based organizations, and environment.