These days you really cannot turn on the news, whether on the radio or television, without hearing about the obesity epidemic and how it is taxing the health care system. At the same time, we are bombarded with advertising for junk food, sugary snacks, fast and convenience food. It is no wonder that we have become large.
The Latino community has been impacted by the obesity epidemic, and Hispanic preschool children are at a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Back in 2006, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found the following:
“Thirty-two percent of the white and black tots were either overweight or obese, vs. 44% of the Hispanics.
Why were the Hispanics at higher risk? Kimbro checked a long list of factors, from children’s TV habits to whether mothers had easy access to grocery stores. Nothing could fully explain the difference. “We were surprised,” she said.
Children were particularly at risk if their mothers were obese. So were those who still took a bottle to bed at age 3, as did 14% of the Hispanic youngsters, 6% of the whites and 4% of the blacks.”
So given the state of our community’s fat issues that start hindering us from the get-go, it was a little surprising for me to learn that Latino organizations such as the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity, the National Hispana Leadership Institute, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, along with the National Hispanic Medical Organization have been recruited by a coalition, Americans Against Food Taxes, to oppose taxes on sugary and fast foods. These organizations are arguing that taxes on these foods would disproportionately affect the poor.
I wasn’t the only one surprised:
“Public health analysts were surprised to find that the list included the National Hispanic Medical Association, which represents 36,000 Latino doctors and focuses on health issues such as obesity-related diabetes that’s hitting Latino youth especially hard.
‘Why in the world would a Hispanic health advocacy group do this?’ asked Kelly Brownell, the director of Yale University’s Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity.
Nearly all the Hispanic groups, including the Medical Association, had received beverage industry money in the past or have industry representatives on their governing boards.”
Once again, our advocacy groups have been tainted by the money coming from industries that contribute to our health problems. We have seen this with the alcohol industry and their continued sponsorship of organizations like MALDEF and NCLR.
I’m neither for or against a fast food or soft-drink tax, but I do think that it is worth exploring, as a way to offset the costs of health care. The evidence that such a tax would help curb unhealthy habits is not very conclusive, but continuing to accept money from food companies that produce goods that aren’t of much nutritional value muddles the messages of organizations like Hispanic Alliance for Prosperty and LULAC.
My thought is that the food and soft-drink industry is salivating at our growing population and growing hunger and thirst for their products. They want to make sure that we have been effectively bought off so that we will oppose taxes on sodas and convenience foods. Frankly, all of us would be better off eating more unprocessed foods, which can actually be cheaper when purchased at local farmer’s markets and produce stands. I just don’t see a benefit to promoting the “crap food” industry any more than is already done. This issue is particularly timely given First Lady Michelle Obama’s kick off of the “Let’s Move” campaign to conquer childhood obesity. But what are your thoughts?