Friday, November 5, 2010

Banning Happy Meals: A Question of Ethics?

Not sure if you've heard the news today, but it's official: San Francisco has banned happy meals! This may cause some people to jump for joy, while others will be outraged, but in case you're curious, here are my thoughts on the situation: By definition, the ultimate 'ideal' aim of all public health strategies and policies is to reduce the risk of harm to individuals while working to promote the greater good of society as a whole. In other words, reducing health risks like obesity and preventing or treating all chronic diseases like hypertension, for example, requires a balance of personal responsibility with social responsibility.

People have got to take control of their diet and lifestyle choices but they first have to be able to do so! It's unfair and unrealistic to expect anyone to take appropriate preventative health measures without the appropriate resources and without being adequately informed, knowledgeable or capable of using them. We must be careful not to blame the victim if and when they become ill if society has not provided them with the resources they need to make informed choices; we must always look at the bigger picture.

Consumers are not always aware of what goes into their food products, so food manufacturers and government officials must take some responsibility in the prevention of obesity and chronic disease by decreasing the amount of sodium, sugar and fat that consumers are exposed to. With greater awareness of the health risks of poor dietary choices and health risks like high sodium intakes, there may be a shift in social norms and acceptability of the fact that certain foods have a very negative impact on health.

So, sure, kiddies won't get 'prizes' now for ordering fries and burgers...but they can still order fries and burgers if they want. Still, this may also be a great first step to avoiding a number of personal, familial, financial, social and societal burdens resulting from future illness that could result from poor eating habits in childhood. I give San Francisco a big "Thumbs Up" for putting their foot down on this matter.