New York strives for healthier hospitals

I read the craziest article in the paper yesterday: did you hear, hospitals now want to be a place where people are healthy?! What next, schools where students actually learn? Really, what is going on in the world today?

In case there is any confusion, I support Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to expand the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, a voluntary (ding, ding, ding, important word) effort which aims to banish sugary and fatty foods from both public and private hospitals.

I know this is a reversal of my stance on his sugary drinks in public places ban, which passed, by the way. In that case, I said that people get really mad about the government interfering with their right to consume junk, and that nutrition education was likely more effective than banning soda altogether.

I think I’ve changed my mind, or, at least where hospitals are concerned I have.

It’s true, people do get angry when the government gets overly involved in personal choice. There’s a whole presidential campaign embroiled in that debate right now. The overwhelming criticism to Bloomberg’s moves is that the he is trying to create a “nanny state” in which the government dictates what people can eat and drink.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this argument. I’m not someone who believes government should be overly involved in people’s lives, and I know from years of experience, you can’t force people to make healthy decisions. Most importantly, as a woman, I am especially sensitive to the idea of the government exerting authority over the very personal choices we make about our health and our bodies.

However, when it comes to curbing national weight gain, the majority of people are not making smart choices. I’m not sure they know how. Right now, society either doesn’t care, or is just so overwhelmed it doesn’t know what to do, or where to start. I don’t see Bloomberg’s proposal as government dictating choice, rather, I think it’s just another step toward changing the food climate in America. To make healthier choices easier, and make unhealthy choices a little more inconvenient. No one is saying you can’t eat your Cheetos or Snickers bars in the hospital, you just have to find a source for them other than the waiting room vending machine.

As Bloomberg said, “If there’s any place that should not allow smoking or try to make you eat healthy, you would think it’d be the hospitals.”

My hope is that as more governments, organizations, and businesses jump on a healthier bandwagon, Americans will slowly shift their way of thinking so that in the future, we will think it was crazy that super-sized sodas and 24-year-old shelf stable snack foods were ever the norm.


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