Private-Sector Solutions for Obesity

Christine Whelan | Posted on 05/11/10

First Lady Michelle Obama's report with recommendations to reduce childhood obesity is out today. The full report, which includes 70 recommendations for "public and private sector action," is online here, and some of the key points are highlighted in a blog that went up on the website today as well.

On the face of it, these suggestions seem obvious and logical: Good prenatal care, good early nutrition, education for parents and children about nutrition and body-mass index calculations, improving access to healthy foods in underprivileged areas... excellent suggestions. But download the PDF of the table of contents. You immediately see it's no coincidence that Mrs. Obama put "public" as the first word in the phrase about "public and private sector action."

What's missing from the report is a call to partnership with food manufacturers to create "smarter" food through improvements in food technology. It's something that we're seeing the private sector do every day: WonderBread recently released a "Smart" bread that's packed with fiber and calcium, and cereals have been doing it for years.

I salute Michelle Obama for making this her issue. We need to talk more about the educational, economic and social disparities in our food consumption--and take clear measures to improve the situation. But let's be careful not to focus all our efforts on public-sector solutions.  It's the private-sector action and a partnership with innovation that will be most effective here, not Big Brother government telling us what calories are good and bad.

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