A partisan but official-sounding organization called the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) released a study last week claiming that childhood obesity is “a state emergency” in the Golden State. Predictably, California’s major newspapers pounced, calling for everything from increased budgets for physical education programs to harsh, new restrictions on the types of food that can be sold in school cafeterias.
Of course, CCPHA director Harold Goldstein is downplaying the idea that this new study represents an attack on food providers. He tells the Los Angeles Times that it’s all about “healthy eating and physical activity.”
But this is the same Harold Goldstein who spoke to the 2002 conference of the American Public Health Association (APHA), in a session titled “Challenging the Fast Food Culture.” There, he told a crowd of over 1200 public health officials that “people will say that this obesity epidemic is only a matter of personal responsibility,” but “we in public health know differently.”
Goldstein’s organization (CCPHA) was the primary sponsor of California Senate Bill 19, which set new standards for demonizing soda pop. Goldstein also encouraged the APHA conferees to “make sure that SB19 and [the] LA Unified [soda ban] are implemented fully.”
Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub analyzed CCPHA’s study of California’s children and concluded: “Parents, not state government, are in the best position” to make sure kids stay healthy. “It is parents — not the government, not the fast-food companies, not the video-game manufacturers — who are responsible for teaching kids healthy eating and exercise habits.” Weintraub also notes that, contrary to Goldstein’s spin about phys-ed reform, “many of the report’s long-term recommendations [are] focused on the fast-food industry.”