AMA Calls for Obesity Prevention Classes in Public Schools

A new policy adopted at the American Medical Association's annual meeting says the group supports legislation to require annual classes in obesity's causes and consequences for first through 12th grades. Another new policy concerns nighttime lighting.

The American Medical Association, the nation's largest physician group, has adopted a new policy meant to address obesity in the U.S. population. Adopted during the House of Delegates' annual meeting in Chicago that ended June 20, the policy says taxes on beverages with added sweeteners are a way to finance consumer education campaigns and other obesity-related programs.

A related policy says AMA supports legislation to require annual classes on the causes, consequences, and prevention of obesity at public schools in first through 12th grades. "While there is no silver bullet that will alone reverse the meteoric rise of obesity, there are many things we can do to fight this epidemic and improve the health of our nation," AMA board member Dr. Alexander Ding said in AMA's news release about the policy. "Improved consumer education on the adverse health effects of excessive consumption of beverages containing added sweeteners should be a key part of any multifaceted campaign to combat obesity."

The American Beverage Association, a trade association the industry, released a statement supporting the goal of reducing overweight and obesity but opposing adding taxes to sugar-sweetened beverages. "The intention of the American Medical Association to seek ways to help reduce overweight and obesity in America is an admirable goal that our industry fully supports," ABA's statement says. "However, funding anti-obesity programs through discriminatory taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages is misguided. Even the AMA's report acknowledges that sugar-sweetened beverage taxes alone are 'unlikely to significantly impact the prevalence of obesity and other adverse outcomes.'"

Other newly adopted policies include one calling for manufacturers of FDA-approved drugs to give the federal agency at least six months' notice, or as soon as is practicable, of an anticipated halt in manufacturing or marketing of those drugs. The goal is to prevent or resolve drug shortages.

Another policy concerns nighttime lighting; it says exposure to excessive light at night can disrupt sleep, worsen sleep disorders, and cause unsafe driving conditions. The policy supports development of lighting technologies that minimize circadian disruption and more research on the risks and benefits of occupational and environmental exposure to light at night.

"The natural 24-hour cycle of light and dark helps maintain alignment of circadian biological rhythms along with basic processes that help our bodies to function normally," said Ding. "Excessive exposure to nighttime lighting disrupts these essential processes and can create potentially harmful health effects and hazardous situations. This type of disruption especially impacts those employed by industries requiring a 24-hour workforce, as well those faced with unsafe driving conditions caused by artificial lights on cars and roadway illumination. By supporting new technologies that will reduce glare and minimize circadian disruption, the AMA is taking steps to improve both public health and public safety."

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