Local Venues for Change: Legal Strategies for Healthy Environments

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 35 (1):138-147 (2007)
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Abstract

Mounting evidence documents the extraordinary toll on human health resulting from the consumption of unhealthy food products and physical inactivity. Diseases related to poor nutrition – such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers – are among the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. Poor diet and lack of exercise come second only to tobacco use in actual causes of preventable death in this country. It is estimated that 6% of all adult health care, 7% of Medicare, and 11% of Medicaid expenditures are attributable to obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the direct medical cost associated with physical inactivity was nearly $76.6 billion in 2000.In response to America's growing obesity problem, local policymakers have been looking for legal strategies to adopt in their communities to encourage healthful behaviors. Taking the lead from the successful tobacco control movement, nutrition advocates are seeking strategies to “denormalize” unhealthy behaviors, rather than pursuing education-based approaches that encourage individuals to change their own personal behavior.

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