Today more than two-thirds of adults in the United States — and nearly a third of children and adolescents — are overweight or obese, which puts them at risk for serious, even life-threatening, health problems. If the obesity epidemic continues unchecked, experts warn that the current generation of young people could be the first to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation. Although obesity affects everyone, communities of color and lower-income populations are disproportionately affected. There are many contributors to the obesity epidemic, and barriers to accessing healthy food and limited opportunities to increase physical activity play a significant role.
On May 1, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made an announcement difficult to stomach: certain school nutrition standards implemented under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 would be scaled back. As American kids consume as much as half their daily calories at school, reforming school-provided meals can meaningfully impact childhood obesity, which affects over 12.7 million kids and adolescents in the United States.
The Network recently received a request from a state official for any relevant resources on implementing a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. The official hoped to gather information about what legislation other states have implemented to better inform the pursuit of such legislation in her state.
The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN), a project of ChangeLab Solutions, focuses on a variety of legal issues related to childhood obesity, including:
In addition, NPLAN’s expertise spans to constitutional issues, such as how the First Amendment affects government’s authority to regulate marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, and how the Fifth Amendment affects government’s ability to restrict the uses of land. NPLAN can also provide support on navigating preemption and on drafting strong enforcement language with regard to laws and regulations that affect healthy eating and active living.
Through NPLAN, the Network can provide legal technical assistance to government agencies, community coalitions and public health advocates across the United States. Areas of assistance include developing agreements to open school recreational facilities to the public after hours, increasing access to healthy foods in schools and communities and implementing “complete streets” and “safe routes to school” policies to encourage walking and biking in neighborhoods. Staff attorneys break down “legalese” and make legal concepts accessible to those implementing innovative policies.
Technical assistance also includes developing model ordinances and other model legal tools, conducting relevant legal research and sharing best practices. Technical assistance is offered via in-person trainings, webinars, conference calls and at www.nplan.org.
For legal technical assistance and support with obesity prevention:
You can also call your region to get legal assistance at:
The Network will not share your contact information with external parties without consent.
The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel. For more information on the type of legal assistance the Network can provide, please see frequently asked questions.