retail news in context, analysis with attitude

So, did you see the stories at the end of last week about the Florida doctor who lost his job as head of the Bay County Health Department in Panama City because he used an electric sign outside his offices to criticize – sometimes by name and brand – foods that he said contribute to the nation’s obesity problem?

Dr. Jason Newsom, who used to be an Army physician serving in Iraq, used the sign to make the following statements:

“Sweet Tea = Liquid Sugar”

“ Hamburgers = Spare Tire”

“French Fries = Thunder Thighs”

“Doughnuts = Diabetes”

“Dunkin’ Doughnuts = Death”

“America Dies On Dunkin’”


It was these last two pronouncements that created the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back – because there was a county commissioner who owned a doughnut shop, and a couple of local lawyers who owned a local Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. They threatened to sue, and eventually Newsom’s bosses forced him to resign.

Newsom says that he doesn’t regret his actions, that he saw doughnuts being served almost everywhere he went in a county with a 25 percent obesity rate and where 39 percent of all adults are overweight. Railing against the, he said, was as much his job as educating the public about flu shots.

"My method was a little provocative and controversial," Newsom has been quoted as saying, "but there wasn't a person in Bay County who wasn't talking about health and healthy eating."
KC's View:
The San Francisco Chronicle had a story over the weekend saying that “obesity is the elephant in the room of health care reform, a public health catastrophe that kills more than 100,000 Americans a year, cost the nation $147 billion last year and threatens to shorten U.S. life expectancy for the first time since the Civil War.”

In a lot of ways, experts tell the Chronicle, it almost doesn’t matter what health care reforms may be passed by legislators this year because the system will continue to be swamped by increased rates of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.

This is, in fact the cold reality of the situation in which we find ourselves as a nation – and, as the Chronicle writes, “Obesity is all but impossible to treat. Prevention is the only cure.”

I have to admit that I am sympathetic to Dr. Newsom’s prescription, and I say that as someone who has struggled with weight issues almost all of my life.

Could he have done it more diplomatically? Perhaps with signs along the lines of “apples = long life,” or something like that? Sure…but I’m guessing that Dr. Newsom thought that he actually owed his patients (the taxpayers who were paying his salary) the truth – unvarnished, unmitigated, even politically incorrect.

The problem, of course, isn’t with people who occasionally indulge in a doughnut. The problem is that if you eat a couple of doughnuts every day, he likelihood increases that you’re going to end up with a weight problem. And that’s the battle that Dr. Newsom thought he needed to fight.

Good for him. And shame on the government bureaucrats who thought that the job of running the county health department meant being less concerned about real health issues and more concerned with political considerations.