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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A "Choose Civility" solution to sugar


     I am sure that the Mayor of Baltimore, trying to stem the rise in homicides, would gladly change places with the Howard County Executive where the big controversy is whether sugary drinks should be sold in County buildings.  But when you look at our local controversy the public health comparisons can be viewed as having some commonality.  The shock of sudden death of young people by homicide is dramatic in a way that death by lifestyle choices can never be.  But in public health terms any preventable death is equal in the need to take actions to reduce the rate of death and health issues.
     While it is hard to clearly know how many Howard Countians die from drinking sugary drinks there is no doubt that lifestyle choices that include a high consumption of drinks and foods high in sugar can lead to significant health issues from diabetes to liver, heart conditions and even some cancers.  Ask anyone in the health field about what brings patients in for treatment and you will probably hear a list of conditions caused by poor lifestyle choices from smoking, to drinking or diet. We have all become familiar with the public campaigns to address smoking and drinking many of which involve actions to limit and restrict those choices.  Even the national elimination of trans fats started with New York City banning their use in restaurants and along with an education campaign.
    So getting back to the issue of sugar consumption in Howard County what is the right approach to address this public health issue---eliminating their availability or a public education campaign on the harmful effects of consuming too much sugar?  How you answer that question probably identifies how you come down our local controversy.  What I would hope would not get lost in the local political debate is that people on both sides of the issue agree that over consumption of sugar is harmful.  Starting with that agreement I would hope that people on both sides of the issue would recognize that a combined effort to address the public health issues of sugar consumption, along with other bad diet choices, is something that can be better addressed with a comprehensive approach to the issues.  It is also important to know that any significant change has at least these qualities.  Change only happens when you approach a problem in a manner that is comprehensive, intensive, flexible and sustainable for the long term.
     So maybe the best way to address this local controversy is using the "Choose Civility" model of finding common solutions that unite us instead of debating our differences that divide us


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