Judge overrules NYC soda ban; health responders break down pros and cons of NYC soda restrictions; and a Harvard School of Public Health study shows that the public supports specific government action aimed at curbing obesity, diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases. These stories and more top public health news on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
New York Times — Judge invalidates Bloomberg’s ban on sugary drinks
A judge struck down New York’s limits on large sugary drinks on Monday, one day before they were to take effect, in a significant blow to one of the most ambitious and divisive initiatives of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s tenure. In an unusually critical opinion, Justice Milton A. Tingling Jr. of State Supreme Court in Manhattan called the limits “arbitrary and capricious,” echoing the complaints of city business owners and consumers who had deemed the rules unworkable and unenforceable, with confusing loopholes and voluminous exemptions. The decision comes at a sensitive time for Mr. Bloomberg, who is determined to burnish his legacy as he enters the final months of his career in City Hall, and his administration seemed caught off guard by the decision. Before the judge ruled, the mayor had called for the soda limits to be adopted by cities around the globe; he now faces the possibility that one of his most cherished endeavors will not come to fruition before he leaves office, if ever.
Fox News — Block on large-soda ban concerns some nutritionists
New Yorkers who enjoy super-sized sodas can keep drinking them, for now. On Monday, a state judge invalidated New York City’s large-soda ban, which was set to take effect tomorrow. Judge Milton Tingling, of the New York Supreme Court, called the measure “arbitrary and capricious,” according to The New York Times. The measure would have prevented the sale of sodas and other sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces. Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw the measure as an opportunity to make the city healthier, citing sugary drinks and large portion sizes as culprits in the obesity epidemic. However, critics pointed out that some large drinks, such as those containing more than 50 percent milk, were not prohibited. What’s more, the rules did not apply to all establishments; convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp, were exempt.
Harvard School of Public Health — Survey finds public support for legal interventions to fight obesity, noncommunicable diseases
The public is very supportive of government action aimed at changing lifestyle choices that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases—but they’re less likely to support such interventions if they’re viewed as intrusive or coercive, according to a new Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study. The study also found that support was higher for interventions that help people make more healthful choices, such as menu labeling requirements, than for interventions that penalize certain choices or health conditions, such as charging higher insurance premiums for obese individuals. “Policymakers everywhere are looking for ways to use legal and policy levers to stem the rising tide of health care costs related to obesity and chronic disease,” said Stephanie Morain, a doctoral candidate in health policy at Harvard University, who led the study. “They should be heartened by these findings—the public does see this as an appropriate role for government.” That public support is important, the study authors wrote, because it may affect people’s willingness to comply with the law. The study appears in the March 2013 issue of Health Affairs.
The Pump Handle — In tight fiscal time, National Public Health Week highlights the return on public health investments
In a little less than a month, public health workers and their community partners in Macomb County, Mich., will set up at the local Babies”R”Us store to offer parents a free child car seat check. The Macomb County Health Department has been organizing such car seat checks for years now, knowing that proper child vehicle restraints can truly mean the difference between mild and severe injuries, or between survival and death. The car seat check is taking place April 4 in observance of the fourth day of this year’s National Public Health Week (NPHW) celebration, which officially runs April 1–7 and is organized by the American Public Health Association (APHA). Bill Ridella, director and health officer for the Macomb County Health Department, said the April 4 event was chosen to coincide with that day’s NPHW focus, “Protecting You While You’re on the Move”; however, he noted that it also fits in perfectly with this year’s overall NPHW theme, “Public Health ROI: Save Lives, Save Money.”
TIME — Preventing teen pregnancy: pay kids to not get pregnant
New York City officials recently spent $400,000 on billboards featuring omniscient babies reminding potential mothers about deadbeat dads of the future: “Honestly, Mom, chances are, he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” In another ad, a crying infant says, “I’m twice as likely NOT to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.” The “shame and blame” campaign almost immediately drew fire from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers, who argued that the ads marginalize young women who are in need of services, not scarlet letters. But a spokesperson from Mayor Bloomberg’s office defended the public service announcements on the grounds that they are but one component of a multi-faceted approach including school clinics and sex education, and noted that, “It is well past time when anyone can afford to be value neutral when it comes to teen pregnancy.”