Can Government Make Children Healthier?
I look forward to the day when American society is facing a problem, and the first response is, “What can we do about this?” as opposed to, “What can the government do about this?”
Today, we have an opportunity to see that difference in action with the publication of Healthier Colorado’s statewide poll on sugary drinks.
Healthier Colorado says on its website, “Healthier Colorado is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that the voices of all Coloradans are heard by our public officials on issues concerning health.” I appreciate their mission. Who doesn’t want to make sure our public officials are listening to their constituents?
One of the results of Healthier Colorado’s statewide poll is that 83% of poll respondents say, “Daycare facilities should NOT be allowed to provide soda pop or other sugary drinks to children in their care —unless their parents provide them.” Is asking the government to step in and require this really the best solution?
I don’t know too many people who think getting kids hopped up on sugar is a good thing, but why is the first instinct of these 83% to ask the government to require daycare providers to change their behavior? Daycare providers are just businesses that parents choose to send their children to. How many day care providers —when asked by a parent not to give their children sugary drinks— would refuse? If that daycare provider did refuse, the parents, who are the customers in this case, could go somewhere else for daycare services.
Imagine daycare providers who began to compete for business by offering the most healthy drinks and snacks. Or organic, non-GMO snacks. Or vegan, gluten-free, peanut-free snacks. Imagine what would happen if these decisions were left to service providers and service purchasers instead of asking the government to step in.
What if, instead of asking the legislature to mandate drinks at daycare facilities, Healthier Colorado offered an award for the daycare center that was most creative in its offering of healthy snacks? Parents and daycare providers, doing business voluntarily, have a much better chance of leading to healthier children.