Tackling Diabetes One City at a Time

I’m not getting all this fuss to stop a sugar tax that we all know is a good idea. Mayor Nutter’s proposal to tax sweet drinks is a progressive response to both a fiscal and a health problem. I understand the jobs issue is a concern, but people will continue to want their sugar fix. Manufacturers and bottlers are not going out of business anytime soon. Come on… one thing we know from cigarettes is that people will pay for their vices. The bigger issue is that the average consumer is unaware of just how much sugar they are ingesting everyday. In fact, thanks to the “low-fat” craze of the early 90’s, there is a misperception that sugar is okay that fat is not. Not exactly.

In Camden, the great work of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers has been highlighted in the media for its ability to create cooperatives among the City’s healthcare leaders. One of their many projects concern diabetes and its impact on area residents. The Camden Citywide Diabetes Collaborative aims to improve the coordination of care for persons with diabetes. This includes improving self-care. Self-care includes education and that means reminding people that those sports drinks will not make you an athlete and massive, super-sized sodas is not a bargain in the end. At Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, where I work, we have been working with Dr. Jeff Brenner on this and other Coalition activities. We helped develop abillboard  (oll216_billboard_lo FINAL)that resided in the heart of Camden, on Federal Street, to bring attention to the issue. The Board, donated by PNC Bank, is just a step. But over here in Philadelphia, where I live, I’m a little disheartened by the reluctance of City Council to champion a cause that will certainly help to relieve the perfect storm of fiscal difficulties our city is facing.

But I also have a selfish reason to support the sweet drink tax. I give you Exhibit A: a typical clean up from the trash that makes its way to my house. Notice the soda bottles, coffee stirrers, cupcake wrappers, etc. I live on the unfortunate side of my block. That is the side that captures all of the trash that blows up on a windy day. I also live on the path between two schools. Exhibit B gives you an idea of what the kids are eating these days. I don’t mind sweeping my pavement, but it is depressing to see the amount of trash kids (and grownups) are eating and tossing. I cannot help but see the relationship between mental and physical health, between the well-being of an individual and the well-being of a community. I don’t think a tax on sugar is going to stop this overnight, but it might cause a few to stop and consider what they are putting into their body. It’s a start.

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