After March 12, 2013 businesses in New York City will be restricted from selling sodas larger than 16 oz. The ban has been called unfair by many organizations, some who plan to sue the city and challenge the recent court ruling in favor of the ban and its advocates, and many consider the ban to be simply the latest in a series of power crazy maneuvers by NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.

All of this is to say that US citizens are unaccustomed to state or locally enforced healthcare. Our assumption is that healthcare takes place as preventative medicine by choice and as cures and remedies by necessity.  Despite a preponderance of medical programs and resources like PETAP, which help people access quality education in healthcare and medical fields, the status quo still seems to insist that prevention is a matter of individual right, an issue of freedom.

An interesting counter example is being made in Japan where in 2008 the government passed something called the Metabo Law. Designed to combat pre-diabetes, the Metabo Law requires individuals who are overweight or who show signs of weight related health problems to attend dieting classes. The punishment for failure to attend these courses is a fine, but not a fine on the individual. Instead, that individual’s employer or local government is required to pay the federal government on the truant individual’s behalf.

If that wasn’t enough to make an American’s sugar sweet blood boil, then add to it the provision that if any company maintains an employee base with more than a certain percentage of overweight workers, that company will automatically be fined. Now, in the US we all know where this would go. First, companies would be accused of discrimination. Not hiring or firing those individuals whose belts were too big. Next the discussion of genetic bigness would ensue. How to properly determine health based on waistline, if such a determination is even possible, and so on and so forth.

But given that Japan is statistically less obese than almost any other developed country (not to mention America, who could only dream of rivaling it in thinness), and given that while a diet of rice and fish and vegetables can be slenderizing and healthful, as can the increased amount of walking the Japanese necessarily do, it seems possible that the time to stop and consider the wisdom in laws like the NYC soda ban and Japan’s Metabo Law, might be nigh.

Instead of resisting preventative measures that have been proven to work for fear they may infringe on our personal freedoms, perhaps the conversation should turn to a mutually beneficial arrangement; one where laws and rules can be passed without humiliating social stigmas or violations of privacy and perceived freedoms.