Spring 2010 Vol. 2, No. 3
Topic of the Quarter: Consuming Too Much Salt is a Health Risk
It’s not just the salt shaker on your table that leads to consuming too much sodium. Nearly 77 percent of intake comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, meaning the majority of sodium is already in the food we eat. On average, U.S. adults consume twice the maximum recommended amount of sodium per day. A diet high in sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure. This puts people at risk for heart attack and stroke, which are the first and third leading causes of death for U.S. men and women.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2010, decreasing the average American intake of salt by 1,200 mg per day could save billions in annual health care costs and treatment associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Attention to sodium reduction as a public health priority emerged as a policy issue in 2008 when Congress funded an Institute of Medicine study to review and make recommendations to reduce dietary sodium intake. Then, in 2009, Congress encouraged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to work with food manufacturers and chain restaurants to reduce sodium levels in their products." Congressional action encouraged public health advocates to explore state and local policy options to address sodium intake. Some states:
It is unclear whether menu labeling requirements enacted as part of federal health reform may preempt state and local sodium content labeling requirements.
- Set portion limits for sodium in school meals and snacks.
- Regulate sodium content in prison meals and in state facilities for the elderly.
- Require restaurant menus to include sodium content along with other calorie and nutritional information.
State and local actions have encouraged food makers to voluntarily reduce sodium in their products. At the forefront is a New York City Health Department initiative that began in 2008. It focuses on preventing cardiovascular disease by joining with other health organizations and public agencies to work with food industry leaders on ways to reduce salt in food products.
Recent actions suggest that, by working together, federal, state and local governments and food manufacturers can reduce salt in the food supply to improve health and lower health care costs.
Upcoming Events and NCSL Resources
Legislative Summit, July 25-28, 2010, Louisville, Ky. The NCSL Legislative Summit brings together state lawmakers, legislative staff and national policy experts from across the country who converge to share ideas, best practices and strategies.
School Food Webinar Archive
On March 12, 2010, NCSL sponsored a webinar focusing on innovations that help bring healthier food to schools. More
NCSL can provide testimony to legislatures on preventing injuries and violence; reducing health disparities; the uninsured and access to health care; issues related to community health centers; chronic disease-related issues; health promotion; and other health policy topics. Contact Alise Garcia at Healthfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources on Heart Disease
CDC, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, National Stroke Association
Public Health Menu Page
Heart Disease and Stroke: An Overview of Our Nation's Leading Killers
Chronic Disease Menu Page
Reducing Sodium to Improve Health
Click Here to Listen!
Podcast on Reducing Sodium
In the News
Reducing Sodium in the Food Supply - On April 21, 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a new report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States. This report provides recommendations about various ways to reduce dietary sodium intake to levels recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Preventing and Controlling High Blood Pressure - In February, 2010, the Institute of Medicine released, A Population-Based Policy and Systems Change Approach to Prevent and Control Hypertension. The report recommends giving priority to population-based strategies (improving treatment, reducing sodium in the food supply, increasing potassium, reducing weight, and reducing or eliminating copayments for blood pressure medications) that reach many people and improve the well-being of entire communities.
Communities Putting Prevention to Work - As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Department of Health and Human Services announced awards of more than $372 million to 44 communities to support public health efforts to reduce obesity and smoking, increase physical activity and improve nutrition.
Let's Move - First Lady Michelle Obama announced a national initiative to target childhood obesity. The Let's Move campaign integrates four principles: more nutritional information, increased physical activity, easier access to healthy foods, and personal responsibility. See the Web page that spotlights NCSL's obesity-related resources. More
How Healthy Is Your County? The County Health Rankings—the first set of reports to rank the overall health of every county in all 50 states—were released in February 2010 by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The 50-state reports help public health and community leaders, policymakers, consumers and others see how healthy their county is, compare it with others within their state and find ways to improve their community's health.
Chronic Health Conditions Increasing in Children - A study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association in February 2010 shows that more than a quarter of all U.S. children have a chronic health condition. Rates of attention deficit disorder, obesity and asthma are higher than in years past and contribute to rising health care costs.
Public Health Project Partner News
NCSL collaborates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other national organizations—including the National Governors Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Society for Public Health Education—on its public health project. Recent resources available from partner organizations on public health topics include the following.
The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity released its National Physical Activity Plan on May 3, 2010. The plan represents the nation’s first comprehensive effort to increase physical activity. Initiated by the CDC and developed by numerous public and private organizations across the country, the plan provides the framework for policy leaders and organizational decision makers to support changes that will improve physical activity and health for all ages and abilities. The plan was released as part of "Moving America Day" at a national event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental change (ACHIEVE), the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, the National Recreation and Park Association, and the YMCA of the USA announced a selection of 40 U.S. communities in 23 states and one territory to advance the nation’s efforts to prevent chronic diseases and related risk factors.
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