Many South Carolina hospitals have been leaders in the anti-obesity efforts, junking their kitchen fryers and selling salads in the cafeterias at below cost.
Now, the president of the S.C. Medical Association is urging hospitals to take a daring step and eliminate sugary drinks from their facilities. Dr. Bruce Snyder this month sent a letter to administrators at hospitals in the state asking them to consider this step as part of the fight against obesity.
“Obesity is an epidemic in our state and its effects are so detrimental in our society that we must begin to come together and take the necessary steps to promote a more healthy lifestyle,” Snyder said. “Physicians and health care leaders are role models for South Carolina patients, and healthy, positive steps begin through our personal choices and leadership.”
The S.C. Hospital Association agrees with Snyder’s goal. The association has banned sugary drinks from the many statewide meetings held at its Columbia headquarters. The Medical Association also has taken that step.
“Health care organizations are in a unique position as health leaders in the community,” said Rozalynn Goodwin, director of policy research for the S.C. Hospital Association. “Should they choose to exceed the standard, we celebrate and support them.”
The adult obesity rate in South Carolina has soared to 31.6 percent in 2012 from 16.6 percent in 1995. Obesity contributes to a myriad of chronic health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Sugary drinks are one of many contributing factors, including poor diet in general and lack of exercise.
Most hospitals already have programs aimed at healthy foods for their patients, guests and employees. The SCHA’s Working Well Program focuses on nutrition, physical activity and tobacco use in member facilities. Twenty hospitals in the state have been awarded the golden apple for meeting Working Well nutrition standards.
But Working Well doesn’t call for a complete ban of sugary beverages, and most hospitals haven’t gone that far. Oconee Medical Center is the first hospital in the state to completely ban sugary beverages from cafeteria and vending machines, according to the SCHA.
“Our hospital’s mission is to help people feel better and to live more fully. We had to ask ourselves, ‘Is selling a drink with no nutritional value aligning with our mission?’ ” said Hunter Kome, chief operating officer at Oconee Medical.
He also noted that beverage sales haven’t dropped at the hospital since the ban.