HHS uses Recovery Act money to fund New York City’s anti-obesity campaign

Amanda Carey Contributor
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If you live in New York City, or have even traveled there recently, chances are you’ve been inundated by anti-obesity ads that are plastered on the city’s buses, subway cars and buildings. But while the New York City government is encouraging its more than 8 million residents to stop being so unhealthy, taxpayers throughout the country are paying for it.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), headed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has used $650 million in funds from the Recovery Act to pay for an anti-obesity program called Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW). The program is carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency under HHS.

So far, the initiative has doled out grants to 31 states and cities, including the District of Columbia. New York City got one of the largest grants— $31.1 million. Of that, $15.5 million was allotted for anti-obesity efforts, or what the Recovery.gov website calls “interventions,” and $15.6 million for anti-smoking campaigns.

And the Big Apple hasn’t let that money go to waste. At the end of January, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced the launch of a new television commercial and subway posters alerting New Yorkers to just how unhealthy sugary drinks can be.

The 30-second commercial, that ran through February 22, illustrated how drinks like sweet tea and soda can be measured in sugar packets. The spot claims that a daily routine of “just a few sweetened drinks” is equivalent to 93 packets of sugar.

At the beginning, the commercial appears to be harmless enough, but it ends by showing a graphic image of the effects of obesity-induced diabetes before warning viewers that too many frozen mochas can also cause heart disease and some cancers.

Watch the commercial:

But the posters and commercial are just the latest installment of the city’s “Pouring on the Pounds” campaign that began in August of 2009 and warned residents that “soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can sneak up on you.”

Not to be left out, salt and trans fats have also been targeted in the anti-obesity push. In January 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled an initiative to encourage restaurants and food manufacturers to cut out salt. Bloomberg’s anti-obesity and pro-healthy lifestyle initiatives have also been successful in legally requiring New York City restaurants to cut trans fat from their menus and post calorie counts since 2008.

“It’s outrageous that taxpayers are funding Mayor Bloomberg’s nanny state anti-sugar advertising campaign,” said Deneen Borelli, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project21. “Funding state sponsored propaganda about our dietary choices only serves to promote the progressive agenda while failing to stimulus jobs or the economy.”

When contacted by The Daily Caller, an HHS spokesperson did not respond to questions regarding the use of taxpayer money from the Recovery Act for an anti-obesity campaign that focuses neither on creating jobs nor jump-starting consumer spending – the two stated purposes of the Recovery Act.