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High-powered groups call on healthcare to set an example on sugary drinks

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Two influential medical associations have called on healthcare facilities to show other business and cultural institutions how to discourage the consumption of sugary soft drinks.

The request from the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics reads more like a recommendation that medical centers trumpet what they’re currently doing than a suggestion they adopt more curbs on soda consumption. A report jointly issued by the groups lists example after example of hospitals changing their policies to lead staff, patients and visitors to more healthful beverage choices.

Among the moves spotlighted was the addition of green, yellow and red tags—designating go, consider or stop—to drinks sold at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The joint report also notes instances in which healthcare facilities have stopped selling sugary beverages without hurting revenues.

The report likens the opportunity for healthcare to the one presented as public health concern started to build about smoking tobacco.

“Before the 1950s, physicians and their choice of cigarette brands featured prominently in cigarette advertising,” reads the report. “However, as awareness of the medical consequences of tobacco use grew, physicians stopped smoking, and hospitals eliminated cigarette vending machines and the sale of cigarettes in hospital gift shops.”

It calls that role-modeling “one of the less recognized contributors to the reduction in cigarette smoking,” and urged healthcare to assume that role again with soft drinks that contribute unduly to obesity.

The report is a collection of recommendations from the two groups for steering away Americans, particularly children and adolescents, from high-calorie soft drinks. Among those recommendations were levying taxes on sugary sodas, requiring alerts to their caloric content on menus and discouraging soft drink advertising aimed at youngsters.

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