First Lady Michelle Obama announced today that former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD, Republican, and Newark wunderkind mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat (who, by the way, is celebrating his city's first murder-free month in ages), will be vice chairs of the government's new Partnership for a Healthy America, her anti-child obesity program. Both are inspired choices; Frist is a heart surgeon and knows the medical issues cold. Booker is a mayor who likes to experiment and has a sophisticated understanding of the linkages between the environment, public health and childhood obesity.
The First Lady's choice for chair is James R. Gavin, a doctor who is now chief executive officer and chief medical officer of Healing Our Villages, which provides medical communication services for underserved populations. Gavin is also linked to industry; he's a director of Baxter International, a medical supply company (that'll be nicely taxed under the new health care system) and Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which is very much at the forefront of companies trying to get the chemistry right for anti-obesity medication. Gavin is well-qualified for the job, but it is worth pointing out that Big Pharma and Big Medical Device Companies have a lot to gain from the war on obesity. It's a valid war -- see the next cover story of the Atlantic -- but recognize that stakeholders have different equities in different battles.