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Mecklenburg Health Director Discusses Idea To Keep Fast Food Restaurants Away From Schools

Dr. Marcus Plescia
Mecklenburg County Health Department

Mecklenburg County’s health director says one way to possibly curb childhood obesity is to prohibit fast food restaurants from opening near schools.  Dr. Marcus Plescia has received a lot of attention for the idea, which he mentioned last week during a presentation to county commissioners. But he says it was one small part of an overall plan. 

Commissioners had asked Plescia to recommend ways they could take action to improve public health in the county. His plan addressed what he says are the county’s five biggest public health challenges: tobacco, obesity, HIV, unintended pregnancy, and violence.  

The proposal that got the most attention from Commissioners was about tobacco use, not fast food. Plescia recommended expanding the county’s no smoking policy to include all businesses that are open to the public...not just bars and restaurants. Out of his hour-long presentation, less than five minutes focused on fast food. Plescia says he understands some people might view his proposal as the government trying to be the "fast-food police", as Commissioner Pat Cotham described the idea to the Charlotte Observer. But Plescia says children need more direction.

"They’re learning to make the right decisions that are going to take them through life," he says, "so this is all about protecting children and help them begin to develop good health habits."

Plescia’s suggestions were just that---he made no formal proposal and the Commission took no action. They agreed to revisit the issue at a future work session.

View Dr. Plescia's full presentation to Commissioners here.