Health recommendation: Tax junk food and drinks to curb obesity

WASHINGTON. - Make the right food choices a no-brainer and America's kids will be fitter.

That's the message coming out of a new study by the Institute of Medicine.

The report says childhood obesity is a growing problem and local governments have the power to help but haven't been using it.

Over the past 35 years - less than half a lifetime - the percentage of American adolescents who are obese has tripled, rising from five percent to almost 18 percent, according to the report.

The Institute of Medicine is advising local governments on how to fight fat.

The report cites examples of local efforts to promote healthy eating and physical activity. 

  • Zoning restrictions on fast-food restaurants near schools and playgrounds
  • Community policing to improve safety around public recreational sites
  • Requirements that publicly run after-school programs limit video game and TV time
  • Taxes on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and drinks
  • Law requiring calorie information on restaurant menus
  • Pushing supermarkets and restaurants to provide healthier choices

"There are several examples of cities that have implemented menu labeling, like Philadelphia and New York City," said Mary Story of the University of Minnesota.

New York has launched an ad campaign targeting soft drinks and Chicago just hiked taxes on soft drinks and candy.

The report highlighted local efforts in King County, among 10 other communities.

The report suggests that as an initial step, local officials should consider conducting a community assessment to determine such factors as the number and location of grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, vending machines, walking and biking paths, and sidewalks as well as the location and content of food and beverage ads in public places.

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