Public Health Campaigns: Saviors or Shams?


My friends will be the first to tell you that I’m not the healthiest person. One of my favorite things in life is going out to eat (especially if it’s Taco Bell). I am also one of the pickiest people you’ll ever meet. However, with that said, I try to make up for it at home and have made the big leap (for me) to wheat bread, organic peanut butter, and as many all-natural ingredients as my taste buds will allow. I love farmers’ markets, even if it’s mostly for the peanut brittle.

My brief dietary description is not just for the sake of narcissism. The point is that I make these decisions, some good, some bad, without the overbearing hand of the government. Are public health campaigns really saving lives or just shams?

If these artificial and processed foods the government condemns are so bad, why does the government have to lie to the public in order to promote their brand of public health? While I disagree with certain aspects of Baylen Linnekin’s column in the New York Post, he points out the New York City Health Department’s marketing strategy that is aggressively targeted at children. The problem is that these ads are often untruthful.

Looking at public health campaigns by the New York City Health Department alone, it seems that the bureaucrats have taken to altering images using Photoshop. When they launched their campaign about diabetes leading to amputated limbs, they used a male model and proceeded to remove his limb using editing software. When asked about it, John Kelly, health department spokesman, dismissed the concerns. “We might stop using actors in our ads if the food industry stops using actors in theirs.” Oooh, sassy.

According to the New York Post, in 2010, the Health Department claimed drinking one can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter a year. Internal department emails however show the city’s chief nutritionist calling the ad “absurd.” (Thank God, or I’d be dead in three years.)

Libertarians will agree that the government has no business in public health campaigns. However, if they insist on being in the sphere, can’t they at least tell the truth?