One of the many things obesity brings to the table is a stigma that you are broken. Sure, many people have caused their own obesity, but going past the cause you look for solutions. The state of New Jersey is about to get into the business of “helping” families fight obesity.
Up until this point most government programs concerning prevention weren’t official groups. They were funded with grants, etc. and didn’t draw from the general fund. New Jersey is changing this with their The New Jersey Obesity Prevention Action Plan.
The document is 120 pages long and is best summarized by their Executive Summary:
…the beginning of a statewide, coordinated effort to, as stated in the legislation, support and enhance obesity prevention among New Jersey residents, particularly among children and adolescents.
Read that statement carefully. The state wants to coordinate efforts in your family to stop obesity. At first blush it doesn’t sound that bad, but realize that this group was legislated action. It’s not too far off that legislated weight goals will be passed, and that those who do not meet it will be punished.
When I started reading the plan I was excited. As I dug in it became more disappointing. Here are a few of the reasons why:
Unreal statistics. The report states, “New Jersey spent $2.3 billion in 2003 for medical expenses in treatment of obesity-related diseases. Half of that cost was borne by taxpayers in the form of Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.” We see obesity statistics all over the place, but they are never sourced. This is the case again. There is no explanation of how this number was arrived at, nor is there a list of sources concerning these statistics.
Any obese people involved. By my count 45 people developed this study. There is no mention if they are obese or have been obese. Nothing in the document references any research done with obese New Jersey residents taking their views into account. It would seem that you need to understand the people before you decree something.
Data collection. As part of their plan, the New Jersey will collect and track weight and BMI information for all kids in the state. If the child is over set limits, the school is to refer the parents to a health provider. There is no specific plan for following up on this referral. Most importantly, there is no specific privacy specification for this action. None.
While the New Jersey plan has good intentions, I don’t think it’s going to be a success. They’re focusing almost all their efforts on the wrong things. Maybe, just maybe, if the group were to focus on getting a bite into their proposals it’ll work.