Beyond the headlines: Healthcare professionals skeptical about NYC soda ban

In a poll conducted by SurroundHealth, an online community for healthcare professionals, 50% of respondents indicated that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed soda-ban in New York City restriction will not be enough in the fight against obesity. However, 40% of respondents said that the new measure would not be effective at all.  The ban, a reaction to the growing obesity epidemic in the U.S, would restrict restaurants from selling soda and sugary drinks in anything larger than a 16 oz. serving. The split results highlight the complexity of improving public health through government intervention and regulations.

The poll was limited to SurroundHealth members, verified healthcare professionals whose numbers include public health professionals, registered dietitians, nurses, and health educators, among others. Although the results are informal, they represent the predictions of professionals at the forefront of healthcare. An overview of the actual poll is as follows:

Question: What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed plan to ban sugary drinks over 16 oz. from the city’s eateries?

  • 51% – It is a step in the right direction, but more is needed to fight obesity.
  • 29% – I don’t think it will be effective, and people will find ways around it.
  • 11% -I don’t think this ban would make any impact at all
  • 7% – I think this would be very effective in the fight against obesity.

 (Results do not equal 100% due to rounding.)

While New York was the first city to propose this type of ban, Bloomberg’s actions have sparked other areas to consider similar restrictions. In Massachusetts, Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis proposed a ban restricting sugary drinks and soda in the city’s restaurants and Los Angeles City council member Mitchell Englander has proposed to ban soda from park and library vending machines.

A 16 oz. serving of Coke contains 40 grams of sugar (about 8 teaspoons of sugar), but restaurants routinely serve soft drinks twice as large (which means 16 teaspoons of sugar or more). Regular consumption of high levels of sugary beverages can lead to obesity, which is known to increase the risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. 

The SurroundHealth members seem to be saying, “No one magic bullet will win the fight against obesity.”  This is a complex issue that requires coordinated, multifaceted solutions targeting our policy makers, communities and individuals. While the Mayor’s proposed ban hit the “personal choice” nerve and set off strong reactions, the headlines seemed to miss the greatest message of all.  Portion sizes of many high sugar, high fat foods have grown over the last 3 decades.  Take the Portion Distortion Quiz to see. As portions have grown, so too have the waist sizes of adults AND children.  For the first time in decades, today’s children face the likelihood of a shorter life span than their parents.  Now IS the time to work together as health educators, policy makers and community activitists to promote healthy eating and physical activity among ourselves, in our families, and in our communities.  

Blog contributed by Guest Blogger, Samantha Rodriguez.

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About Susan Collins, MS, CHES, RD, SurroundHealth Blogger

I am Community Leader for SurroundHealth (www.surroundhealth.net), a social network where health professionals from different backgrounds come together to learn from one another's expertise and to share knowledge and resources. We share a passion for improving the health and well-being of communities and individuals. I am also a registered dietitian and certified health education specialist.
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