Five Smart Policies for Improving Public Health

The laws passed by federal and state politicians have great impact on public health. Here are five smart policies government can employ to improve the state of health in the US.

1) Tax Soda

A penny per ounce tax on soda will cut obesity, decrease medical problems, and pay for better school lunches. Nice NY Times review

2) Ratify the International Tobacco Treaty

168 countries have signed and ratified the international Tobacco Treaty. The US has signed the treaty but not ratified it. The Treaty puts a number of sensible limits on tobacco sales and marketing. Time to send the treaty to the Senate! A “top ten” idea 2010.

3) Return Speed Limit to 55 MPH

The lifting of the 55 mph speed limit in 1995 has resulted in over 12,000 additional deaths – more than Iraq, Afghanistan and 9/11 combined. Higher speeds also burn way more fuel. Freakonomics blog:

4) Regulate Fast Food Restaurants Through Zoning Laws

In an effort to improve public health, L.A. now regulates fast food restaurants within certain zones. NY Times “best of 2008” idea.

5) Regulate Thirdhand Smoke

We all know about the dangers of secondhand smoke, but what about all of the smoke residue and toxins that settle on our clothing, furniture and walls (“thirdhand smoke”)?

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

If You Don’t Know What To Do With Your Life — Here Are Three Good Ideas

There is an old saying that if you want to be happy, choose the biggest problem you can find and tackle it.

Here are three big problems – involving health, global development, environment – that remarkably haven’t been solved yet. Maybe you can assist?

Hospital Infections

Hospital infections are a $2 billion per year problem.  We’ve tried high tech methods to encourage washing hands, surgical masks that kill pathogens, even germ-killing paint. Yet hospitals remain dangerous places, killing an estimated 440,000 people per year through errors, including infection. This seems like an problem which should be fixable.


Studies demonstrate that investing in nutrition is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote global development. Techniques include small scale food fortification, iron supplementation, and school-based deworming programs. Nutrition programs are relatively inexpensive. Why is there still malnutrition?

Tire Inflation

Most people drive on significantly under-inflated tires. This wastes fuel, harms the environment, and is unsafe. In the old days gas station attendants would check your tires. These days nobody does. Can we fix this problem?

Each of these problems impacts millions of people. They don’t seem complicated. Can we fix all three and be done with it?