Let’s start with some stats.
Studies show that the most important risk factor for premature death and disability in the U.S. is diet.
Nearly half of all Chicago Public School sixth graders are overweight or obese.
And Chicago kids suffer from some of the highest levels of diet-related disease in the nation.
So you’d think that when Surgeon General Vivek Murthy came to town to talk about child health, nutrition would be front and center, right?
Well, not really. During his 20-minute speech Tuesday at the Northern Trust, Murthy talked about diet for exactly 24 seconds—and that was to congratulate Healthy Schools Campaign, the lunch host, for its work in that area.
Instead, Murthy focused on things like vaccinations, bullying, AIDS and especially walking.
“Walking, it turns out, is one of the most powerful tools we have to roll back the tide of chronic disease in America,” he said.
Earlier this month, he launched a campaign called Step It Up to combat diabetes and cardiovascular disease through walking, with no mention, in this press release for example, of the powerful role diet plays in those diseases.
This summer Coca-Cola came under attack for hiring researchers and experts who play up exercise over diet in the war on obesity. And this month, others pointed out what they feel is a similar pattern in Murthy’s approach.
Fed Up filmmaker Laurie David, wrote on Twitter, “Who’s muzzling him? Why isn’t he telling the truth to America?”
And earlier this month, activist dietitian Andy Bellati wrote a piece for Al Jazeera America on the subject, called “Why is the Surgeon General Silent on the American Diet?”
The Surgeon General did not take questions after his speech Tuesday and his office did not respond to requests for comment immediately.
Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at email@example.com