New York City's Health Department seems to have added their own spin to the whole soda and obesity discussion, in an effort to really inspire consumers to abandon sugary soda drinks. According to a recent New York Post column, a significant number of discussions took place behind the scenes at the New York Health Department to discuss the merits of releasing negative ads about soda consumption that may not have been fully supported by science. The slogan that you can "gain 10 pounds a year by consuming soda as a part of your daily diet" has not been fully vetted scientifically, though many experts have claimed to support the notion that daily consumption of sugary drinks does pack on the pounds and may ultimately be one significant contributing factor in the current obesity epidemic. Hurling (scientifically) unsubstantiated claims to a citywide ad campaign that originates from a city health department is not good science business. One top Assistant Commissioner suggested a different tag line, "Calorie-wise, drinking a can of soda a day is like eating 13 pounds of fat a year," which is a bit more conversational and general in its presentation. The Health Commissioner evaluated all of the recommendations made and decided to go for the hardest hitting campaign message that would clue consumers to the fact that sugary calories turn you, for the most part, "into a tubby," when consumed on a regular basis. Dr. Thomas Farley felt that people fear getting fat and this simplistic slogan would convey the risks of soda consumption the best.
As a health expert I often face the challenge of convincing individuals that their lifestyle habits are quite dangerous and even life-threatening. Sometimes a softer, appealing tone is in order and sometimes a hard-line objective, in your face tone works. It's interesting to me that even in the face of a health scare some people simply find it impossible to shift lifestyle habits. This tells me that education and knowledge are only some of the tools people need in order to modify their health habits. They may also need a support system, long term therapy, environmental (personal) changes and frankly enormous will power. There's no doubt that nutritionists like myself are challenged to find the messaging that will really shock people into action. And because obesity and its impact can be slow and insidious, we are often hard pressed to convince people that their overeating and poor quality food choices can indeed have long term serious consequences. When you don't feel the consequences with immediacy, you can easily adopt a denial attitude.
Do you think this NY campaign is a fair game plan or does the Health Commissioner need to stick to the facts?
Published On: November 16, 2010