Colombia orders NGO to suspend health message on dangers of sugary drinks

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Writing for the blog of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health, Sarah Roache reported that the Colombian government recently ordered an NGO, Educar Consumidores, to suspend a television advertisement on the health risks associated with drinking sugary beverages. The order to pull the ad followed a complaint from Colombia’s largest beverage company and Pepsi affiliate, Gaseosas Postobon, which claimed the ad misled consumers in breach of Colombian law. The “Tomala en Serio television ad shows a man drinking sugary beverages throughout the day: a bottled juice in the morning, an iced tea at lunch time, and sodas in the evening. The images are accompanied by graphics showing how many teaspoons of sugar are in each drink.

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Furor Over Drug Prices Puts Patient Advocacy Groups in Bind

Public anger over the cost of drugs has burned hot for a year, writes The New York Times, coursing through social media, popping up on the presidential campaign, and erupting in a series of congressional hearings, including one last week over the rising price of the allergy treatment EpiPen. But one set of voices has been oddly muted — the nation’s biggest patient advocacy groups. The groups wield multimillion-dollar budgets and influence on Capitol Hill, but they have been largely absent in the public debate over pricing.  But critics say that by avoiding the debate over cost, they are failing in their patient-advocacy duties. “It is a conflict of interest, because the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, from whom they are getting support, may be different from the interests of the patients,” said Dr. Michael Carome, the director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.

Hooked for Life How Weak Policies on Added Sugars Are Putting a Generation of Children at Risk

Extensive research shows that diets high in sugary foods and beverages are associated with increased risk of tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension. But despite the overwhelming evidence linking sugar with negative health outcomes, federal policy has not fully acted on the best-available science to reduce added sugars in children’s diets. Continue reading Hooked for Life How Weak Policies on Added Sugars Are Putting a Generation of Children at Risk

Pharma lobbying held deep influence over opioid policies

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A two-part series by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity investigated the influence of pharmaceutical companies on state and federal policies regarding opioids, the powerful painkillers that have claimed the lives of 165,000 people in the U.S. since 2000. Reporters tracked proposed laws on the subject and analyzed data on how the companies and their allies deployed lobbyists and contributed to political campaigns.

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Harnessing adolescent values to motivate healthier eating

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asks what can be done to reduce unhealthy eating among adolescents. Researchers hypothesized that aligning healthy eating with important and widely shared adolescent values would produce the needed motivation. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled experiment with eighth graders evaluated the impact of a treatment that framed healthy eating as consistent with the adolescent values of autonomy from adult control and the pursuit of social justice. Healthy eating was suggested as a way to take a stand against manipulative and unfair practices of the food industry, such as engineering junk food to make it addictive and marketing it to young children.

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Countermarketing Unhealthy Food: Lessons from Tobacco

Thirty years of research in tobacco control has shown that countermarketing has been effective in reducing tobacco use, especially among teenagers and young adults. This policy brief by investigators at the City University of New York Urban Food Policy Institute  describes some of the key elements of effective tobacco countermarketing campaigns, and examines the relevance of these evidence-based countermarketing practices to unhealthy food and beverages, defined as processed products high in unhealthy fats, sugar, salt and empty calories

Why media representations of corporations matter for public health policy: a scoping review

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Media representations play a crucial role in informing public and policy opinions about the causes of, and solutions to, ill-health. A new paper, published in BMC Public Health, reviews studies analyzing media coverage of non-communicable disease (NCD) debates, focusing on how the industries marketing commodities that increase NCD risk are represented. A scoping review identified 61 studies providing information on media representations of NCD risks, NCD policies and tobacco, alcohol, processed food and soft drinks industries. Continue reading Why media representations of corporations matter for public health policy: a scoping review

Tracking the Effects of Corporate Practices on Health