Kansas City hospital bans sugary drinks

Monday, November 5, 2012 | 7:46 a.m. CST; updated 2:05 p.m. CST, Monday, November 5, 2012

KANSAS CITY — A Kansas City children's hospital has announced plans to ban sales of soda and sugar-filled juices from its cafeteria, gift shop and vending machines in a bid to fight childhood obesity.

Officials at Children's Mercy Hospital said the ban will take effect in January.

Karen Cox, the hospital's executive vice president, said employees and visitors will be able to bring in their own sugary drinks, but the drinks won't be sold at the hospital. Children's Mercy is the first hospital in the Kansas City metro region to implement such a ban, according to hospital administrators.

The ban is part of the nine-point program of Partnership for a Healthier America, a national nonpartisan program focusing on eliminating childhood obesity, The Kansas City Star reported Monday. The partnership developed from Let's Move, the action plan led by first lady Michelle Obama to reduce childhood obesity rates 5 percent by 2030.

At the hospital's primary care clinics in 2011, 34 percent of patients at well-child checks were overweight or obese, including 28 percent of the 2- to 5-year-olds and 41 percent of the 6- to 12-year-olds.

The move to ban sugary drinks is one that "most hospitals will do over time," Cox said, "but someone has to be the leader."

Children's Mercy has also started displaying and promoting only healthful food options in its cafeteria and patient menu advertising. The hospital also offers wellness meals, which are less than 700 calories with less than 10 percent saturated fat, no trans fats and less than 800 milligrams of sodium.

The hospital plans to increase the number of fruits and vegetables it sells by 20 percent, and by 2015, the hospital will have removed all deep fryers from its food service operations.

"There is no research that any one specific change is going to change people's eating behavior long-term," said Shelly Summar, the hospital's weight management program coordinator. "But what we do know is that when the healthy choice is the easy choice, people are more likely to make it."

Summar said the hospital "wants to be a role model for making the healthy choice the easy choice." She said the only exception to serving a sugary drink, is "if we have a very sick child who needs hydration and the only thing they will drink is a Sprite or some other sugary drink."

"What we do for patient care is always going to be in the best interest of the patient," Summar said.

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