AMA to lead funding study to fight obesity

The decision was made as delegates placed a soda tax proposal on hold.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted Dec. 4, 2006

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Delegates at the AMA's Interim Meeting backed away from endorsing a tax on sugary sodas to raise money to pay for anti-obesity efforts.

The House of Delegates nearly adopted such a proposal at its June meeting, but last month voted instead to have the AMA lead a collaborative effort to "discuss ways to finance a comprehensive national program" to study, prevent and treat obesity.

"Taxes are not off the table," said Ron Davis, MD, AMA president-elect and an advocate for the soda tax. Programs are needed to help vulnerable populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities and the poor, learn about healthier lifestyles, he said. Resources are also needed to change urban environments that are too dangerous for walking and where nutritious foods are less accessible.

"The AMA hopes to raise awareness about the issue, raise money for much-needed obesity prevention efforts and encourage healthier lifestyles," Dr. Davis said in a statement.

Seventeen states have taxes on soft drinks, ranging from 4.25% in New York to 7.25% in California, the Trust for America's Health reported.

However, only two of those states earmark revenues for specific purposes. The original proposal said the AMA and state societies should advocate for soda taxes to support programs addressing obesity. Nearly a third of Americans are obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Sheldon Gross, MD, a child neurologist from San Antonio, reflected the sentiments of many physicians who opposed the tax proposal.

"We support Dr. Davis in terms of goals," he said, speaking for the Texas delegation. "Our concern is using the federal tax system as a way of influencing behavior. There are better ways of addressing this problem, such as education, or dealing with soda manufacturers."

The AMA will support polices at the national and state levels that promote healthy lifestyles.

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