Contra Costa Family Doctors Protest Medical Group's Partnership with Coca-Cola

A Bay Area public health leader will formally announce Wednesday the end of his 25-year membership with the American Academy of Family Physicians because a new deal between the professional association and the Coca-Cola Company conflicts with local efforts to prevent obesity.

To call attention to the obesity epidemic and the role companies like Coca-Cola play in encouraging children to consume harmful sugar, Contra Costa Health Services Director Dr. William Walker and other physicians plan to publicly resign from the professional association at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, October 28 in front of the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, 2500 Alhambra Avenue in Martinez.

"I am appalled and ashamed of the partnership between Coca-Cola and the American Academy of Family Physicians," said Dr. Walker, who is also a practicing family physician. "How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that sicken our children?"

According to the professional association, the alliance with Coca-Cola will create "educational materials to teach consumers how to make the right choices and incorporate the products they love into a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle." However, Dr. Walker pointed to studies that show consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks is directly linked to higher levels of overweight and obesity. Soda is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

"Having the soda industry create materials about making the right choices is like having the fox guard the hen house," Dr. Walker said. "This is reminiscent of when the tobacco industry enlisted doctors to endorse cigarette brands as 'mild.'"

According to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 41% of children aged 2 to 11 drink at least one soda or sugar-sweetened beverage per day. Even more alarming, the study found 62% of youths aged 12 to 17 drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverage per day-the same as consuming 39 pounds of sugar each year in sugar-sweetened beverages alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that if current trends continue, as many as 1 out of every 5 children today will grow up with type II diabetes.

"An organization like the American Academy of Family Physicians should be taking a leadership role in helping consumers and especially young people make really good choices about what they eat," Dr. Walker said. "We need as much help as possible to get our communities to see past the false claims of companies like Coca-Cola."

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