walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Today's Inactivities Include: Being sick, reading about public health

Alas, my son started throwing up at quarter to 4 this morning. Not sure what happened; presumably he ate something (or otherwise something got into his mouth) that was Not Good. He is disturbingly quiet, other than reluctantly getting up to throw up more. I'm giving it another hour or so before I start to panic.

I'm reading Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen's _Prescription for a Healthy Nation_, since Farley had a recent op-ed in the NYT (that was about sodium levels in food, specifically, a topic of interest to me because it drives me nuts how freaking hard it is to find food that isn't insanely high in sodium, and I know from travel in other countries that it doesn't have to be that way. Arguing that adopting policy limits by category/type of food would reduce freedom makes me want to exercise freedom all over the person making the argument. Probably by screaming Right Up In Their Face. You know, freedom of speech.). It is, unfortunately, a really problematic book in a variety of ways, so my love for it is limited, however it is a relatively good piece of advocacy.

Anyway. We know -- and Farley and Cohen lay out some of the numbers -- that if you raise the price of tobacco and alcohol products, they are consumed less. They argue in favor of reducing the price of fruits and vegetables (including prepared ones like salads) and increasing the price of high fat/high sugar ("junk") foods. There is a slight problem here. While it is straight forward to tax stuff, collect the money for the general fund (or even targeted programs of a related nature, say, tax "junk" food to subsidize purchase of fruits and vegetables through SNAP), it is not so obvious how we could reduce the price of fruits and vegetables. I suppose we could provide subsidies to growers? But if you did it by regulating price, you could perversely increase production of high sugar/high fat (if you mandated higher prices, rather than tax, which doesn't seem too likely, it would have the effect of raising still further the profit margin on these items) and decrease production of fruit and veg (by reducing the already slim margin -- even when the margin on fruit and veg looks fat, it rarely is because the volatility associated with harvest is higher than the inputs for high sugar/high fat, altho that, in turn, is partly a result of historic farm policies here in the US).

Pricing is tricky, as the authors learned during an effort to recoup some of the costs of a condom campaign -- usage even at .25 a piece plummeted, which was entirely at odds with what they were attempting to accomplish.

I hope they start talking about advertising at some point. I really do. Because advertising is a huge obstacle for any public health campaign. Altho it is very difficult to deal with, given the aforementioned freedom.

ETA: "In the early 1980s, after years of state "buckle up campaigns that people ignored, seat belt use nationally was an abysmal 14 percent. The idea of requiring people to wear belts seemed ridiculous at first, because people had always had the option to use their seat belts, and the laws would be virtually unenforceable."

Seriously? _Always_ _had_ _the_ _option_? For 20 years, _maybe_, at that point.

Okay, whatev. NY usage went from 20% to 47%. "It wasn't the fear of punishment that made people buckle up, because cops didn't (and in most states legally couldn't) pull people over for not wearing belts it was the statement that the law represented. Buckling up was something people were supposed to do. It was expected, normal, what any regular person did."

Bull shit. I remember the early 1980s. My parents were vocally in favor of mandating new cars having car seat belts, always required that we use them and never let us forget how hard they'd worked to get them into cars. But everyone _else_ I knew started using seat belts after they got an add-on to their ticket for failing to wear a seat belt, or knew someone who did. There was _intense_ "lawyering" around who was required to buckle up and who wasn't and loud arguments in cars on group outings about who was going to pay the ticket if someone did not buckle up who was being told to and who wasn't accustomed to obeying that law. And the extra on the ticket was always mentioned. I also heard a bunch of stories about people getting pulled over with that as the explanation for the pull-over.

I have no mortal clue how the law was written in NY at the time, but given the behavior of law enforcement in NY with respect to other written law, I just don't even see how that would be relevant.

"the seat belt laws didn't always get a smooth ride through state legislatures...Of course it is stupid to drive without seat belts, some protested, but we have no right to force people to be smarter if the only ones they put at risk are themselves"

One of the arguments that I heard a lot in the early 80s did not accept that wearing a seat belt was smart: I heard dozens of people argument, sincerely, at length and volume, that they'd rather be ejected from a vehicle than be hurt by a seat belt. One of the counter arguments, of course, became hey, I don't want you flying around in the car hurting my neck and head, when people were arguing about whether passengers in the back seat needed to wear a seat belt (the rationale being that people riding in the back without a seat belt tend to have lower risk than people in the front with a seat belt, at least according to some statistics being tossed around at the time).

ETAYA: The authors do go on to talk about primary enforcement laws vs. secondary, but even if you have secondary only, you can usually increase a fine for failure to wear seat belts. A deterrent factor unmentioned, but that I remember people using in arguments.
Tags: daily activities, food, health, non-fiction, not-a-book-review, politics
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