A Market-Based Solution for the Obesity
Justin Rohrlich September
27, 2010 2:43 PM|
for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced
that, since 2000, the amount of vegetables Americans
are eating has stayed the same and the amount of fruit
Americans are eating has gone down--about 1/3 of adults
eat the daily recommended servings of fruit, and just
over 1/4 of adults eat the daily recommended servings
the last decade we have looked at behavioral intervention,
like counseling to get people to include their fruits
and vegetables," said report co-author Dr. Jennifer
Foltz, a researcher in the CDC's National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "But
it's not so easy."
one of the reasons cited by non-fruit-and-vegetable-eating
people for not eating fruits and vegetables was that
washing and peeling was too inconvenient.
won't work--while high prices may sometimes be an issue
as far as organic or exotic produce, it doesn't appear
that cheaper kale will spur the latent kale consumption
that's been lingering inside us all our entire lives.
matter, free apples, broccoli, and crates of butternut
squash likely wouldn't encourage healthier eating--it's
simply easier to open a bag of Doritos or heat up a
can of Spaghetti-O's. You don't have to wash or peel
anything, though there is the inconvenience of having
to throw away the bag or can when you're done.
And we all
know about the costs associated with being overweight.
higher medical bills, the real-life costs, as calculated
by researchers at George Washington University, who
added in things like employee sick days and lost productivity,
found the annual cost of being obese to be $4,879 for
a woman and $2,646 for a man. (Amazingly, they also
found that nearly 1 billion additional gallons of gasoline
are used every year because of increases in car passengers'
weight since 1960.)
a money manager with a specific focus on commodities
has a solution:
people actually had to pay for the consequences of being
obese, they would eat better. That’s the market mechanism
that would work. Not subsidizing lettuce. In terms of
daily life, there’s no deterrent. There’s a deterrent
for not drinking and driving. And it keeps most people
from not doing it. An insurance company can't set your
rates based on how heavy you are. If there was a scaling
rate that had people paying three times as much because
they’re 200 lbs. overweight--from overeating, not from
a glandular problem, etc.--you'd see immediate behavioral
changes. Now, the food industry wouldn’t support this.
They don’t make money on people being fit. Now, not
everyone has to be anorexic-looking and thin as a rail;
clearly we eat too much as a country. But to get kids
to eat more apples? If it's cost-efficient to be thin,
parents will make sure their kids are eating apples."
It's an interesting
sort of reverse incentive that is probably the only
way to substantively change peoples' eating habits.
But getting something like this actually put in place
would likely never happen.