By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017
Today, approximately 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children in the United States are overweight or obese (Odgen, 2012; Flegal, 2012). It is estimated that the country spends upwards of $190 billion per year treating obesity-related health conditions (Cawley, 2012). This trend is associated with the increase in marketing expenditures ($3.2 billion for carbonated beverages in 2006) and consequently the rise in consumption (US FTC, 2008). Americans are exposed to hundreds of ads each year; however, beverage companies adamantly deny their products and/or marketing tactics are correlated with the current obesity epidemic (HSPH, 2012).
Unfortunately, a study conducted by Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegal out of Boston University found that public health organizations may be enabling beverage companies to continue these detrimental business strategies. Aaron and Siegal discovered that 96 national health organizations accepted money from Coca-Cola and Pepsi and ironically included diabetes organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Siegel and Aaron note that beverage companies “primary interest[s] [are] of improving profit, at the expense of public health.” It is demonstrated in the numbers. Between 2011 and 2014, the Coca-Cola Company spent more than $6 million annually, on average, on lobbying, while PepsiCo spent more than $3 million a year against 28 bills that established a soda tax or implemented advertising restrictions. Whereas the American Beverage Association spent a little more than $1 million a year (Aaron & Siegal, 2016). This hardly seems like a fair fight.
Siegel equates beverage companies to alcohol and tobacco companies and points out that “corporate philanthropy” is merely a “marketing tool that can be used to silence health organizations that might otherwise lobby and support public health measures against these industries.” The study recommends that health organizations reject sponsorship offers from soda companies and find alternative sources of funding (Aaron & Siegal, 2016; Chedekel, 2016).
Aaron, D.G. & Siegal, M.B (2016). Sponsorship of national health organizations by two major soda companies. Am J Prev Med. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(16)30331-2/pdf
Cawley, J. & Meyerhoefer, C. (2012). The medical care costs of obesity: an instrumental variables approach. J Health Econ. 31(1):219- 230.
Chedekel, L. (2016). How health groups unwittingly help coca-cola and pepsico. Futurity. http://www.futurity.org/coca-cola-pepsi-lobbying-1272392-2/
Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., & Ogden, C,L. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010. JAMA. 307(5):491-497.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) (2012). Fact Sheet: Sugary drinks and obesity fact sheet. The Nutrition Source. https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2012/10/sugary-drinks-and-obesity-fact-sheet-june-2012-the-nutrition-source.pdf
Ogden, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., & Flegal, K.M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. JAMA. 307(5):483-490. US FTC, 2008