Opinion: Disney's fight against obesity

Editorial

The Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., on The Walt Disney Co. joining the campaign against obesity and diabetes:

We knew Michelle was in the club. Mike had been a member for years.

But Mickey? He came as a pleasant surprise, the one who might make the difference. It won't happen as quickly as it needs to, but having him around can't hurt.

Michelle, of course, is the first lady, Michelle Obama, who has made nutrition and exercise her crusade in the White House. From planting garden to showing up on the Ellen Degeneres show recently to do pushups, she has become a national symbol of how important it is to eat right, exercise and stay in shape.

Mike is the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, and he has spent his time on the other side of the issue, telling people what they can't do, and using the impressive power he wields as the mayor of the city at the center of everything and as a billionaire who can pick his causes and make them matter.

Want to smoke? Mike says go outside.

Want to slurp down a half-gallon of sugar water? Mike will make you buy two smaller cups instead.

But now Mickey is with them. As in Mickey Mouse, symbol of the Disney empire and the latest convert to the cause of healthy eating.

The Disney corporation announced recently that it was going to start banning junk-food ads from the shows it makes for children and start judging the nutrition of snacks and other items on grocery shelves. Make the cut, and you get Mickey's stamp of approval.

Are there problems and concerns? Of course. Disney won't start its ad ban for three years — time enough for hundreds of thousands of more kids to become obese and develop diabetes. If Mickey can't or won't break those advertising contracts, he could at least start to put pressure on the companies making all the junk — perhaps by surrounding some of those ads with public service messages presenting the opposing message. No need to wait for that.

And though critics are right to note that the Disney standards for getting a Mickey high-four — that's his version of a high five — are not high enough, this does put the mouse out there where public pressure can do some good.

As for parents who want to act sooner, nothing is stopping them.

And for those who worry that all this is just a marketing ploy, take heart. Once upon a time, car companies fought the notion that they needed to install seat belts in their products. People did not want them, people would not use them. All they would do is add cost to the price of the car.

Now, you will not find a car company that does not stress safety as the reason to buy, second only to gas mileage.

It's hard to tell exactly when the auto industry reached that turning point, but if we ever start winning the fight against diabetes and start wondering when the struggle really got going, the week the mouse joined the fight and created the trio of Michelle, Mike and Mickey would be a good candidate.


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