Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mmmm. The smell of the French fries. The sight of the pizza. It's lunchtime!
But before Phoenix city employees can enter their building's cafeteria, where those drool-inducing sights and smells are coming from, they must survive a guilt trip. Right outside the entrance to the feed hall is a machine for taking blood pressure. It has additional information on diabetes, cholesterol and other problems that may arise from eating too much. Or eating the wrong food.
And it's right there, in their faces. Kind of like having the photo of "the fat me" posted on the fridge as a reminder to cut back on the Ben & Jerry's. When I visited the cafeteria there recently, I didn't actually see anyone near the machine. They were all headed to the grub line.
It's a small thing, and who knows how well it's worked? Perhaps it has had an effect on some people's lunch choices, or eating habits overall. Maybe it is now totally ignored by the regulars, who have seen it so many times it is overlooked as part of the furniture. And if the novelty is gone, the resolve could be too. But it's an interesting effort on the city's part, and one that an increasing number of governments and companies are engaging in.
The Washington Post reported a surge in wellness programs in companies. Those with programs to promote health showed an average of $3.50 savings for every dollar spent, as measured by reduced absenteeism and health-care costs. State and local governments are seeing the benefits too, and are starting up wellness programs or passing laws to address obesity, diabetes and unhealthy diets.
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices on Thursday awarded 10 states $100,000 each to help with childhood obesity prevention efforts in schools and communities. Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia received grants to improve the health and nutrition of children.
In Phoenix, maybe -- just maybe -- that innocuous-seeming machine has instilled willpower in some people for whom it is a constant struggle to make the right food choices. (All of us?) And that might end up helping the city in the long run.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.