Our Children Need Kaiser Permanente’s Leadership

by Jeff Ritterman, M.D. on April 25, 2016

I worked as a cardiologist at the Kaiser Richmond Medical Center for 29 years.  During my tenure Kaiser went from the “low cost leader” to a leader in quality.  Kaiser has also emerged as a major force in promoting public health.  In the area of child nutrition, Kaiser has pioneered “Sugar Free Summers” and “Turn Off TV Week” designed to improve nutrition and to increase exercise frequency.

Kaiser now has a chance to make a major improvement in public health by “weighing-in” on the sugar-sweetened beverage crisis.  Yes, crisis.  Our kids are getting type 2-diabetes at an alarming rate and liquid sugar is the major culprit.  The beverage industry spends astronomical amounts of money convincing our youth to drink sugary drinks, like the sports and entertainment stars do, or at least they do while making the commercials.

Thank you Steph Curry for breaking the mold and endorsing water filters instead!

SF, Oakland, Albany, and Richmond are all considering putting Sugar-sweetened Beverage Taxes on their November ballots.  At the state level, Democratic Assemblymen Richard Bloom of Santa Monica and Jim Wood of Healdsburg have proposed a “health impact fee” of 2 cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The California State Health Impact Fee would raise more than $2 billion annually.  That revenue would be invested in counties, cities, community-based organizations and licensed clinics to create and maintain obesity and diabetes prevention programs.  Money would also provide safe drinking water and create oral health programs.

In the words of Assemblyman Richard Bloom:

“We hope to create a fund that would be used to improve health outcomes, particularly for children afflicted with obesity and diabetes.  Right now there’s very little funding available to address the epidemic of obesity.”

It’s long past time for Kaiser Permanente to get off of the sidelines and to take a position in favor of these measures.

There really is no longer any debate.  The Soda Tax experience in Mexico, documented by leading nutritional scientists, has shown unequivocally that the tax shifts consumption away from sugar loaded beverages especially among the poor who are hardest hit by diabetes.

Likewise, the Berkeley Soda Tax victory shows another important aspect of these efforts.  Berkeley is now able to invest over $1.5 million annually in community and school-based projects to improve the health of Berkeley’s children.

The Soda Industry will again spend tens of millions of dollars to confuse the public.  The science is clear.  Liquid sugar is the main culprit in producing type-2 diabetes.

This is the same fight we had against Big Tobacco.

Kaiser Permanente, our children need your leadership!

Dr. Jeff Ritterman is Vice President of the SF Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.  He is a former Richmond City Councilman and led the Richmond Soda tax effort.

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Filed under: Soda Tax/Food Politics

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