Childhood Obesity: Attacking a Crushing Epidemic

One glaring example would be for the American Academy of Family Physicians -- the professional organization to which I belong -- to rescind its sponsorship by the Coca Cola Company for "health education."

The AAFP's patient website, familydoctor.org, recently received a grant "in the strong six figures" to promote "education" on sweetened beverages and hydration. All supported by Coca Cola, which, coincidentally, is fighting against a beverage tax.

In 2007, the AAFP supported a similar tax policy -- a tobacco tax to reduce smoking and to help pay for the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

(Editor's note: Following the publication of this column, the president of the AAFP, Dr. Lori Heim, responded that the organization does, in fact, support a tax on sweetened beverages.)

Childhood Obesity a Societal Problem

Other national organizations can also take the lead. One outstanding example is the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, which has already been tackling the problem of unhealthy marketing to children.

In the final analysis, though, it all comes back to individual patients with names, faces, parents and siblings. Families that often struggle with weight-related conditions together, in cultures that promote unhealthy lifestyles.

Emotions aside, we literally cannot afford to forget children like Carla.

Dr. John Spangler is director of tobacco intervention programs and a professor of family medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina.

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