It happened while I was leaving a grocery store in the southeastern United States. The young girl who asked me if I wanted to buy Girl Scout cookies was strikingly perfect. She was thin, happy, and well spoken. So were her colleagues. The moms, too, were of healthy weight and cheer. It was as if they were English-speaking transplants from the Netherlands. They did not appear to be regular consumers of their own product.
And this is a problem, isnâ€™t it? Here is the Twitter bio of the Girl Scouts of America:
Ultimately the Girl Scouts aim to make the world a better place. Good. We need more groups like this.
The problem is that selling high-fat sugar-laden cookies to an increasing calorie-addicted populace is no longer congruent with that goal. Things change. American society, especially, and most tragically, the children, suffer from an epidemic of calorie excess and movement deficiency. Itâ€™s not hyperbole to say this is a public health disaster.
Iâ€™m a heart doctor. More than two-thirds of my patients have problems acquired from eating too much and moving too little. High-calorie inflammation-inducing foods only exacerbate these problems. Though vaccines and infectious disease get much attention, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, bone and joint disorders and other diseases of excess pose far greater threats to public health.
And for those who have traveled to other parts of the world, our nationâ€™s obesity epidemic is sort of an embarrassment.
The question I would ask the Girl Scouts of America is this:
In our current society, not the one of 50 years ago, the one now, what sort of character is it building in young women to sell cookies to calorie-addicted inflammation-overwhelmed Americans?
Itâ€™s simply not right. For the same reason hospitals and schools have removed junk food from their cafeterias, I call on the Girl Scouts to find another way to raise funds. I encourage other health leaders to do the same.
Making the world a better place must surely involve teaching young girls something other than profiteering at the expense of public health. Plus this: Is the act of selling cookies into this society sporting? My grandfather might have likened it to trout fishing in a hatchery.
I know what you may be thinking, and itâ€™s stuff you may have read here before. Cookies arenâ€™t the problem, eating the whole box is. This is true. Health is indeed a personal responsibility. Iâ€™m not for banning fast-food eateries.
The difference is that for-profit purveyors of inflammatory foods are transparent. Their goals are not to build character of young people, improve public health or serve the greater good. They are to make money. Thatâ€™s different from the Girl Scouts.
Public health is no joke. Making the world a better place means teaching young people to be mindful of how money is made.