Bloomberg’s Campaign Against Obesity Continues

Recently Bloomberg made an executive order that encourages New Yorkers visiting city government buildings to use the stairs rather than taking the elevator. Bloomberg said pointedly at a news conference at which he announced the executive order that “I’m not here to tell you how to live.” Yet, for many of his critics this is exactly what he has been attempting to do for the last several years. The actual situation appears to be more complicated – of the measures that he has taken, only the decision to ban trans fats actually required anyone to do anything. Everything else, whether it ranges from attempting to limit sizes of sodas, encourage doctors to offer prescription phentermine to obese patients or requiring posted calorie counts is simply intended to persuade people to do the right thing when it comes to diet and exercise. Similarly, no police officers will be posted in front of elevators checking to make sure that everyone who is not handicapped takes the stairs. Instead, signs will be posted that encourage people to take the stairs, and staircases will be made more accessible.

The issue here is an uncomfortable one – people justifiably do not like being told how to live by the government, whether it is at the federal, state, or even in this case at the local level. The decisions that we make about our lifestyles are very personal ones and if the government attempts to influence behavior there is likely to be a natural resistance. However, if we put the philosophical element out of the equation and instead focus on the facts, we must come to the realization that obesity is a serious health problem in the United States. The reason why governments have decided to get involved is because officials fear that people are not making healthy choices in their lives. Taking prescription diet pills such as Adipex is also not the healthiest choice. Still, many believe that they should be free to make their own choices and are turned off by even voluntary measures such as signs to encourage them to take the stairs.

Perhaps the greatest long term impact of this initiative will be in the field of architecture. In many buildings people take elevators even when they are going up just one floor because the staircases simply are not very accessible. Sometimes they are in areas that are out of the way and inaccessible, and frequently they are very narrow, and are included simply because you need to have stairs in the event that fire or other hazards force the building to be evacuated and render the elevators unsafe. While taking the stairs alone is not enough to encourage people to become fit, it will nudge them slightly towards that direction in their daily lives. The decision about whether or not to respond to that urging is up to them. No one is forcing anyone to lose weight, but people must be aware of the increasing body of knowledge regarding the harms caused by obesity.

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One of Bloomberg's major policy initiatives as mayor – continues unabated