MOTION Coalition Co-Chair leads charge to reduce consumption of sugar drinks

By Dennis Archambault

William Dietz, M.D. director of Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University https://publichealth.gwu.edu/departments/prevention-and-community-health-office-dean/william-dietz  and co-chair of the MOTION Coalition at Authority Health http://www.authorityhealth.org/community-groups/motion-coalition-obesity/ has long been a proponent of reducing consumption of sugar drinks through public policy. In an article scheduled for publication next month by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Public Policies to Reduce Sugary Drink Consumption in Children and Adolescents,” Dr. Dietz and colleagues make a formal push to change public policy.

The article sites six recommendations:

  • Local, state, and/or national policies intended to reduce consumption of added sugars should include the consideration of approaches that increase the price of sugary drinks, such as an excise tax. Such taxes should be accompanied by education of all stakeholders on the rationale and benefits of the tax before implementation. Tax revenues should be allocated, at least in part, to reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.
  • The federal and state governments should support efforts to decrease sugary drink marketing to children and adolescents.
  • Federal nutrition assistance programs should aim to ensure access to healthful food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks.
  • Children, adolescents, and their families should have ready access to credible nutrition information, including on nutrition labels, restaurant menus, and advertisements.
  • Policies that make healthy beverages the default should be widely adopted and followed.
  • Hospitals should serve as a model and implement policies to limit or disincentivize purchase of sugary drinks.

Social marketers have known – as far back as initial efforts to curb traffic fatalities by using safety belts – that you can only go so far with education and persuasion. In a market economy with corporate advertising power pushing unhealthy behavior through product sales, government often needs to become involved for the public good. Because it means significant loss in profits, it’s understood that industry – in this case the sugar product industry – won’t let this occur without a fight.

Dr. Dietz, et al, recommend that pediatricians become more active in counseling children in families to decrease consumption of sugar drinks, but also to become involved in advocacy for policy change.

Dennis Archam