The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have released a joint policy statement endorsing “a suite of public health measures” aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary drinks in children and teens.
A press release from the AHA detailed these measures, including “excise taxes, limits on marketing to children, and financial incentives for purchasing healthier beverages.”
“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” said Natalie D. Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, a California pediatrician and lead author of the policy statement. “On average, children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year… As a pediatrician, I am concerned that these sweetened drinks pose real — and preventable — risks to our children’s health.” Dr Muth cited tooth decay, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease as just a few of the many possible health concerns.
A summary of recommendations from the AHA/APA policy statement is below:
- Policymakers at the state, local, and federal level should consider raising the price of sugary drinks using an excise tax. These new tax revenues should be applied to programs that reduce health and socioeconomic disparities.
- State and federal governments should support all efforts to reduce sugary drink marketing directed at children and teens.
- Water and milk, among other healthy beverages, should be the default beverage options on children’s menus and in vending machines. Federal nutrition assistance programs should “discourage the consumption of sugary drinks.”
- Children and teens, as well as their families, should have “ready access to credible nutrition information.”
- Hospitals should establish policies that limit or discourage the purchase of sugary drinks.
Communities across California, Washington, Colorado, and Pennsylvania have successfully levied excise taxes on sugary drinks. These taxes have been reinvested into a variety of community and public health prevention programs. Many of the policies suggested, including this one, have been developed using lessons learned from decades of tobacco control efforts.
“Communities have started tackling this problem with creative solutions,” said Dr Muth. “Every child deserves to grow up to be healthy. That means we need to do more to promote health beverage options. If we can do this together, we’ll improve the long-term health of our nation’s children.”
American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association [news release]. Chicago, IL: American Heart Association. Published March 25, 2019. Accessed March 25, 2019.