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October 15, 2014

The Historic Role of Boards of Health in Local InnovationNew York City’s Soda Portion Case

Author Affiliations
  • 1O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
  • 2ChangeLab Solutions, Oakland, California
JAMA. 2014;312(15):1511-1512. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.12498

Childhood and adult obesity pose major risks for cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, with poor individuals affected disproportionately. Despite intense political attention, high obesity rates—34.9% nationally and 47.8% among African American adults—have not abated, remaining essentially unchanged from 2003 to 2012.1 With current policies failing, new ideas are needed. Cities and states—in their historic role as public health “laboratories”—have demonstrated creativity. Boards of health, with their unique mandates, represent an engine of innovation, with the New York City Board of Health (NYCBH) soda portion limit offering a salient illustration. Yet on June 26, 2014, New York State’s highest court struck down the Board’s rule, holding the Board lacked authority.2

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