New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a national hero, not the wannabe fascist overseer of an emerging nanny state as his critics maintain. Sigh. Had the HispanicLatino community a leader with the stature and political and financial standing of a Bloomberg and his bravura! Bloomberg, of course, has taken aggressive stances on smoking and other public health issues, and he now wants to eliminate the super-sized sodas ballooning the national waistline. Some of the criticism coming his way so far has not come from the seriously overweight HispanicLatino community.
Every population group through time has had individuals who were overweight. But everyone knows what has happened in the last 30 years: The conversion of a totally preventable public health threat that is entirely man-made into an epidemic that threatens not only the personal health of millions but the financial health of the nation. Has any other nation in the history of humankind put so many of its own – voluntarily – in self-destructive peril? The old saw about we have met the enemy and it is us is too cute by half but lamentably so.
Most people do not realize the origins of the 16-ounce-plus drinks sold in convenience stores throughout the country had cause. Their origin was not a demand from already-overweight or obese people for larger-sized drinks. Rather, the original demand came from workers who labored out in the sun and needed constant replenishment of the water that evaporated from their systems through sweating. Most of the jobs these men (and now women) occupied were in the lower scale of pay, and the workers could not really afford the cost of the additional drink or cup they required. Store owners responded with larger cups for only slightly higher prices that unfortunately then abetted the national wave of obesity that threatens the nation.
So there is room for larger servings of drinks. But there is also a larger need for leadership from the HispanicLatino community to confront a condition that afflicts so many of its members. In some school districts, almost 7 out of 10 HispanicLatino children are overweight or obese. This dangerous and sad statistic cries for new leadership.
Years ago, I wrote testimony for a state health commissioner testifying before a state senate committee about the overweight-obesity problem. One of the senators fell in love with the key, relevant sentence: The physical health of the state will determine its fiscal health. Cute but true. Obesity is a high-medical-cost condition that needs serious attention.
As society deals with overweight-obesity, it had better not hear from HispanicLatinos, who need Bloombergs not boo-birds.
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.