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The politics behind obesity and health care reform


In New York City, politics and food go together. If you don't believe it, just take a look at a few recently proposed laws such as the soda tax. Gov. Paterson proposed placing a tax on non diet soda (diet soda would remain tax free). Need further evidence, how about the banning of trans fats? In nearby Nassau County, a proposed fast food tax would place a 2% increase on all fast food meals.

Local pols insist the measures are needed to balance the budget and "encourage people to eat better".  Coincidentally, Blacks are 51% more likely to be obese than Whites according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone with a body mass index, an estimate of body fat calculated using a persons height and weight, of 30 or more is considered obese.

Blacks are also less likely to have health insurance. In New York, 22% of Blacks aged 19 to 64 have no health insurance compared to just 13% of whites in the same age category according to a study by the Community Service Society who advocates for low-income New Yorkers. Blacks are also less likely to receive preventative care and suffer higher mortality rates from AIDS and other diseases. Poverty accounts for most  of the disparity along with cultural factors. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, AIDS and obesity are top health concerns in the Black community. Deaths from AIDS is six times higher for Blacks than for Whites.

National health care reform is highly likely to benefit Black and Latino communities. Each year, in New York, public health care programs require participants to renew or re-enroll. Blacks are the most likely to be dis-enrolled (about 40%) from public health care programs like Medicaid - due to this renewal process - followed by Latinos then Whites. Asian/Pacific Islanders are the most likely to remain enrolled and maintain continuous coverage.

Medicaid requires new applicants to be finger printed and face to face applications are required. No internet, mail, phone or fax applications are accepted. Documentation of residency is also required. Many people work full-time but receive no health care benefits from their employer. These factors contribute to the lack of health care coverage amongst the poor. Increasingly, the poor of New York City includes the Black and Latino communities.

Read Part 2 of this series: The politics of homelessness in New York City


  • Paul Murphy 5 years ago

    2fat2fly on Twitter. is fighting child obesity through education awareness and advocacy.
    IS FOOD OUR NEXT TOBACCO? I want to extend a warm welcome to all who hope to help fight obesity . Not fight obese people.
    Lets fight Fatism . Dr Regian Benjamin has been attacked by many in the media ,due to her size. will not be a bystander as she is facing Fatism .
    The question is what are you going to do . I will be on Twitter seeking to find volunteers to fight Fatism ,and will work to support Dr Benjamin.
    Thanks Paul

  • Paul Murphy 5 years ago

    Lets build a model to fight child obesity,but let us begin with a conversation about obesity.
    I am on Twitter / 2fat2fly.

  • Sylvia Klinger, MS, RD 5 years ago

    As a registered dietitian and consultant to food and beverage companies, I am well aware of the growing obesity epidemic, specially among ethnic groups. I counsel my patients to exercise daily and maintain a healthy diet, which can include all foods and beverages in moderation. Personally, I don't feel that these proposed "sin taxes" will help this epidemic, as obesity is a complex thing and no one food or beverage is responsible. Why single out one product? This would surely not do much to curb obesity rates. I encourage the government to promote healthier lifestyles (health related programs, physical education in schools, more variety for school lunches, etc.) versus taxing specific items.

  • 5 years ago

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  • Kellie Glass RD, LD 5 years ago

    Obesity is obviously a complex problem. I don't think we can blame the fast food industry or the companies that produce soda. We have a responsibility to our bodies to consume all foods in moderation and to be physically active. The fact is this: being healthy is not a priority in this country no matter what your race. In order to change the obesity crisis and thus the healthcare crisis, we need to start at home. It's the responsibility of parents to set the example f how to lead an overall healthy lifestyle. In my book, "How To Eat Fried Chicken and Be Thin Too" I address the 4 most important components to an overall healthy lifestyle: nutrition, exercise, stress management, and sleep. For more information, the book can be found on Amazon or at