“Proposals for reform that focus solely on individuals-be it on their knowledge, willpower, or decision-making ability-will not be successful in reversing our society’s body weight trajectory. We need measures aimed at changing the context, not the individual. Rather than simply encouraging consumers to make healthier choices, we must recast the environment so that health options are far more accessible, available, and desirable than unhealthy alternatives” (Walls, American Journal of Public Health, 2009)
I am not sure if this quote encourages me or enrages me. Here are my two thought processes. Super markets strategically hide fruits and vegetables in the back of the store making us walk through all the processed food isles to get to them. They force us to wait in line at the register staring directly at that Snickers bars. The food industry has made it nearly impossible for consumers to avoid cheap, processed, high-fat, high-sugar, low nutrition foods. “Food deserts” exist all over our country. A food desert is a rural or urban neighborhood with little or no access to health foods but often served by plenty of fast food chains. So yes, we need to change the environment, curb the food industry’s production of such unhealthy foods, and make fruits and vegetables more accessible. These are system changes that could greatly impact the well-being of the American people…and not to mention reduce health care costs.
But this quote also disappoints me and makes me yell “Americans are not incapable!” We overcame slavery, stood up for women’s rights, and are a world super power, and yet we can’t put down that donut? Dr. Walls’ quote diminishes individual choice and will power, which is what this country is built on. If we don’t believe Americans can chose what they eat for themselves, how can we trust them to vote on what’s best for the country as a whole? It is undermining the very core of democracy by accepting that individuals can not chose for themselves what to eat and maintain healthy weights, and that therefore authorities need to step in and change the enrivonrment to force them to do so.