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Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long made it a paramount goal to rid New York City of unhealthful foods, and he recently asked the Federal government for permission to prohibit Food Stamp recipients from using stamps to buy soda and other sugared beverages in the city.
Supporters are cheering Bloomberg’s stance, saying he’s striking a blow for better dietary habits and ultimately lower public health costs and consequences such as obesity. But critics question the move, seeing it as an example of big government, even patronizing toward the poor.
Research can be a valuable guidepost for public officials. In 2009, after Mayor Bloomberg required restaurant franchises to put calories counts on their menus, NYU Wagner professors Rogan Kersh and Brian Elbel sought to measure the impact of the calorie labeling initiative on consumer habits at fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods. Their survey of 1,156 adult found little direct evidence to support the Mayor’s view that the posting of calorie counts causes fast-food patrons to buy items containing fewer calories. Elbel’s and Kersh’s widely discussed study, published in the journal Health Affairs, emphasized that follow-up studies are needed to determine the value and effectiveness of menu labeling and other obesity-related policies.
Professor Elbel describes the Mayor’s current proposal to prohibit the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda and sugary drinks as “an extremely innovative policy approach to tackle the complicated and multifaceted problem of obesity. It deserves a rigorous assessment, to evaluate its overall impact on healthy food choice and obesity,” says Professor Elbel, assistant professor of medicine and health policy. “The rest of the nation can then learn from the New York City experience as these and other policies to fight obesity are considered across the country.”
What’s your opinion of the Mayor’s food stamp initiative? Is it good public policy? Or should it just be allowed to fizzle out? Visit Wagner’s Public Service Today blog to post your comment today.
NYU Wagner Professor Victor Rodwin is the coauthor of a new book comparing the American and French health care systems - A La Sante De L'Oncle Sam (To Uncle Sam's Health: Cross Perspectives on the American and French Health Systems).
Victor Rodwin, professor of health policy and management at NYU Wagner, and his colleague Didier Tabuteau, counselor of state and professor of health policy at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques and the University of Paris Descartes, have published a new book (published by Editions Jacob Duvernet) in which they challenge the conventional wisdom that the French health care system is a government-managed, public and collective enterprise and the American system a private, market-oriented and individualist system. Based on six months of debates in Paris while Professor Rodwin held the Fulbright-Toqueville Chair (spring semester, 2010), this book compares public health, health insurance, the power of physicians, health care reform, and the silent revolution that is transforming health care organization in both France and the United States.
When Dean Ellen Schall was appointed commissioner of New York City’s Department of Juvenile Justice, she transformed the troubled agency into one that Harvard University and the Ford Foundation selected to win their prestigious Innovations Award. This iconic case study is featured on Electronic Hallway at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs