130328_FoodPoliceBadge picKatherine Bishop and Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest took to The Hill recently to lament the fact that the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (conveniently known as the NCCDPHP) receives a measly $765 million a year to help fight obesity, and the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity gets only $44 million. In arguing for more federal funding (because clearly $809 million isn’t enough for anything these days) Bishop and Wootan resort to an all too familiar CSPI tactic to get what they want: Use an absurd comparison to scare people into believing the sky is in fact falling.

The comparison this time is relating obesity to a communicable disease. According to Bishop and Wootan:

If obesity was a communicable disease that was transferred from one person to another like avian flu, cholera, or small pox, there would be an enormous public outcry and major mobilization of government to protect the American people. Obesity prevention would be sufficiently well funded to ensure that obesity rates decreased.

Later they try and make the obvious concession, but fail miserably: “Obesity might not be a communicable disease in the technical sense, but it has been spreading in this country since the 1970s.” Not in the “technical” sense? How about not in any sense? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes “communicable diseases” as those which “spread from one person to another or from an animal to a person.” The day we begin catching obesity from animals is the day we have much bigger problems than our own weight.

All of this is to say that obesity is not something you “contract,” as Katherine and Margo put it. Rather, you gradually can become obese if you consume more calories than you expend on physical activity. Knowing this, perhaps a wiser course of action than scaremongering would be using that $809 million to purchase 8,516,685 treadmills for all of us to share.