“Health In All Policies”

At Reason, Baylen Linnekin has a year-end survey asking “a handful of food law and policy cognoscenti” (thanks!) what they would pick as the story of the year in that area, and also the story to watch next year. (Others surveyed include Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Ron Bailey, and Jeff Stier.) As a significant story in the past year, I nominated the flare-up of social media resistance to changes to the federal school lunch program (“#ThanksMichelleObama“), noting that while purveyors of “food policy” could barely contain their disdain at the insolence of the students spreading the tag, the protest did make an impression in Washington: “of all the ways to irritate the political class, making fun of them is among their least favorite.”

So far as a sleeper issue to look for in 2015, my nomination was:

Have you heard of “Health in All Policies”? It’s a buzz-phrase for inserting public health dogma into everything from land use to taxation. Imagine if sticking up for your taste in milkshakes and margaritas meant you had to attend zoning meetings. It might come to that.

At “The Pulse”, a series on health based at Philadelphia’s public radio station WHYY, reporter Taunya English describes “Health in All Policies” at more length and quotes me providing a voice of skepticism about the idea.


  • ” the federal school lunch program ”
    I agree. I heard the terms “mystery meat” and “kitchen floor goulash” back in the 70s.
    Maybe they don’t print school menus a week in advance like they use to. So, kids can’t take a lunch when it’s mystery meal. That’s what we did.

  • Integrating solutions across diverse issues is traditionally the job of elected officials. Methinks I see yet another bureaucratic power grab, yet another excuse for yet another shot at total control. There’s the real disease.

  • This is going to become a corollary to the “precautionary principle”, and is just as dangerous. It amounts to turning over control of society to the people who tell the scariest stories. In this case, the scariest health story, about the impact of some particular proposal on the health of the people in a particular neighborhood. They use social “science” to calculate hypothetical risks and hypothetical adverse effects, and they apply them to frighten people. It is a form of control. See, e.g., the use of the word “nudge” to describe ways to change behavior.

    It is one of the waypoints on the road to totalitarianism