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Photo by Jasonk./Flickr CC


Yesterday, 20 family physicians in Contra Costa County, California ripped up their membership cards in the American Academy of Family Physicians in protest over the AAFP's partnership with Coca-Cola.

The director of the Contra Costa Department of Health Services, Dr. William Walker, announced that he was resigning his 25-year membership in AAFP. In his statement, Dr. Walker said:

...I am appalled and ashamed of this partnership between Coca-Cola and the American Academy of Family Physicians. How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that put our children at risk for obesity, heart disease and early death.

...The AAFP is supposed to be an organization that works to protect the health of children not put them at risk. Their decision to take soda money is all the more unconscionable because, unlike doctors in the 40s, they well know the negative health impact of soda. There is no shortage of documentation that soda is a major contributor to our nation's obesity epidemic.

...Let me be clear about something: as disappointed as I am with the American Academy of Family Physicians for being duped into thinking that Coca Cola wants to help promote health, the real problem here is our children are being put at risk.

Companies like Coca Cola are polluting our communities with deceptive advertising promoting products that put our children's health at risk.

...as a family practice doctor and the Health Officer for Contra Costa, I do have a prescription for every parent, teacher, community leader and student:

Look beyond the glitzy advertising that makes you think pouring liquid containing sugar into your body is healthy. Read the label. Look at the ingredients. I'm not suggesting that you boycott sugared drinks, but please make an informed decision about what you are consuming.

I'm calling on every city and neighborhood in our County to fight back against the industry the pushes these harmful products. I ask the American Academy of Family Physicians to end this unhealthy partnership and to join us in leading this important campaign to take back the health of our residents and end the obesity epidemic.

Strong words, indeed. I hope that the AAFP--and other health and nutrition organizations that might consider food industry partnerships--pay close attention to these words.

* The event was covered in the Contra Costa Times. The Health Department's website includes the press release and also a video and podcast.