business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports on how the new federal health care law requires health insurers and employers to “pay the cost of screening children for obesity and providing them with appropriate counseling.”

Experts say that while such programs may be necessary because of high levels of childhood obesity in the US, it will be challenging to create them: “Other than intensive hospital-based programs, few proven models exist for helping children and adolescents achieve and maintain a healthier weight, and researchers do not even fully understand the factors that contributed to the rapid rise in childhood obesity in recent years.”

Here’s how the story is framed by the Times:

“While there are many community efforts aimed at getting every child to eat better and exercise more, including Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, there is also growing demand for programs that help children who are already seriously overweight. WellPoint and the UnitedHealth Group, another large insurer, are experimenting with new approaches, and even Weight Watchers says it is working to develop a program for children and teenagers. Drug companies and medical device makers are also testing some products on children ... Experts also say that to be successful, programs need to focus on the family as a whole, changing what everybody eats and how much time they are all active, not sitting in front of a computer screen or television.”
KC's View:
No question in my mind that childhood obesity is one of the most significant issues of our time (as former President Bill Clinton said at the National Retail Federation show in New York yesterday). And there is no question that a public policy response is required.

But at the end of the day, no amount of public policy can replace the simple act of parents feeding their kids healthy foods (and eating such foods themselves), getting exercise, and going to fast food joints less frequently.