Innovative Policies Need Time To Work
Roland Sturm and Deborah Cohenargue that the premise for South Los Angeles' groundbreaking fast food moratorium was "questionable." As a public health advocate with nearly four decades of experience, I could not disagree more. For starters, the moratorium was never intended as the sole solution but rather as one part of a comprehensive strategy to create a healthier food environment and change eating norms. Second, the moratorium galvanized an entire community and helped to strengthen the voice of youth and community advocates; it brought attention to a community whose needs had been overlooked far too long.
As we consider innovative approaches to ensuring that all communities have access to healthy and affordable food, let's not forget the lessons of tobacco. When I worked on the nation's first multicity tobacco control policies in Contra Costa County, California, we faced fierce opposition. Critics quickly argued that creating smoke-free areas would not have any effect on smoking rates, and at first they were right. But these initial policies not only built momentum for more comprehensive policies, they also began shifting smoking norms. And these new norms have led to incredible declines in smoking rates.
The fast food moratoriums of today are just as innovative as the initial tobacco control policies were in the eighties; similarly, more time is needed before their full impact can be realized. In the meantime, let's not be too quick to dismiss their role alongside the policies Sturm and Cohen do support, including menu labeling and taxes and fees on soda.