Here is an encouraging real-life example of how public health advocacy — focused over time — can yield significant results.
Highlights of the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, via Medscape:
* “After a multipronged, 3-year community campaign to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks in Howard County, Maryland, supermarket sales of sodas dropped 20%, whereas sales remained flat in “control” supermarkets elsewhere, researchers report.”
* “The Howard County Unsweetened campaign included television ads, social-media posts, projects by more than 50 community groups, and lobbying that led to passing state laws—all aimed at getting people, especially children and teenagers, to switch from sugary drinks to “better beverages.”
* “”These findings support the hypothesis that community-based interventions aimed at changing attitudes and access to sugary drinks through policies can meaningfully influence purchasing behavior at the supermarket,” Dr Marlene B Schwartz (University of Connecticut, Hartford) and colleagues report in their study published online March 6, 2017 in JAMA Internal Medicine.”
* “”The consumption of sugary beverages is a serious problem in the United States that is associated with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” JAMA Internal Medicine deputy editor Dr Mitchell H Katz (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, California) writes in an editorial note that accompanies the study.”
* “The 3-year campaign (in 2013 through 2015) included the following components, among others:
1) The educational component included television ads, outdoor billboards, direct mail, and Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube posts, and a Better Beverage Finder online tool that lists hundreds of brands of unsweetened beverages.
2) Forty providers (in 13 practices) participated in an American Academy of Pediatrics collaborative to improve practice behaviors related to childhood obesity.
3) Professional marketers set up booths at community events such as sporting events and distributed healthy drinks.
4) The Better Choices Coalition of 50 community organizations collaborated in diverse efforts such as improving vending-machine choices and educating their members.
5) A contest was held for youths to produce the best documentary about sugary drinks.
6) Campaign members were successful in getting laws passed that removed student-accessible vending machines in middle schools; required that food sold in schools meet national nutrition standards; and required that childcare facilities serve beverages such as water, plain or low-fat milk, or small sizes of 100% fruit juice.”
* “The intervention resulted in a significant decrease in sales of regular soda and fruit drinks. Sales of sports drinks decreased but this was not significant. Sales of 100% juice also dropped significantly, possibly due to choosing smaller drink sizes. Sales of diet soda did not increase, suggesting that people were not switching from regular soda to diet soda.”
Kudos to all involved!