Protecting Businesses at the Expense of Health
Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2009
Should anyone doubt that money can trump health policy, witness what happened to the head of the Bay County (Florida) Health Department:
A 38-year-old former Army doctor who served in Iraq, [Dr. Jason] Newsom returned home to Panama City a few years ago to run the Bay County Health Department and launched a one-man war on obesity by posting sardonic warnings on an electronic sign outside:
“Sweet Tea = Liquid Sugar.”
“Hamburger = Spare Tire.”
“French Fries = Thunder Thighs.”
He also called out KFC by name to make people think twice about fried chicken.
Then he parodied “America Runs on Dunkin’,” the doughnut chain’s slogan, with: “America Dies on Dunkin’.”
Some power players in the Gulf Coast tourist town decided they had had their fill.
A county commissioner who owns a doughnut shop and two lawyers who own a new Dunkin’ Donuts on Panama City Beach turned against him, along with some of his own employees, Newsom says. After the lawyers threatened to sue, his bosses at the Florida Health Department made him remove the anti-fried dough rants and eventually forced him to resign, he says.
But even more pathetic is how the monied interests portray themselves as victims.
The businessmen had the backing of County Commissioner Mike Thomas, who owns a diner and a doughnut shop. Thomas called for Newsom’s ouster, saying the doctor shouldn’t have named businesses on the message board.
“I think he was somewhat of a zealot,” Thomas says. “I don’t have a problem with him pushing an agenda, it’s the way he did it. People borrowed money to go into business and they are being attacked by the government.”
Note to Mr. Thomas: “The government” was not attacking them but the nutritionally bankrupt food-like substances served by their businesses. To say that a government official in charge of public health should not speak against unhealthy foods is like saying he or she should not speak against cigarettes and other tobacco products, because, golly gee, investors put a whole lot of money into those businesses, too! We wouldn’t want to see them go bust now, would we?