Dayton Children’s Hospital will stop selling sugar-sweetened beverages at its main buildings in Dayton and outpatient care centers in Springboro and Middletown this year, hospital officials announced Thursday.
The action was prompted by a 2011 study by the hospital that revealed 37 percent of the region’s children were overweight or obese.
“As the only organization in our region solely dedicated to the health of children, it is our responsibility to lead by example to curb the childhood obesity epidemic,” said Deborah Feldman, president and CEO of Dayton Children’s. “While we believe it is important to offer a variety of healthy choices, sugar-sweetened beverages are rarely a healthy option.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sweetened drinks are the primary source of added sugar in the daily diet of a child. Each 12-ounce sugared soft drink consumed each day has been associated with a 60 percent increase in risk of obesity, the academy said.
For nearly 18 months, hospital officials have been working on a campaign called the “healthy way initiative”, and the ban of sugary drink sales is just the latest effort by Dayton Children’s in that program.
Beverage industry experts said the reduction of sugar-filled drinks is becoming a trend across the region, including in restaurants, but some believe it all comes down to what an individual thinks is best.
“I don’t think that banning sugary drinks is necessarily a bad thing,” said Shanon Morgan, president of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association. “Of course I do think that ultimately a parent should be in charge of their kids choices, and helping them make better choices.”
While sodas and sports drinks will not be sold on the campus, Feldman said staff and patients will still be able to bring their own sugar-sweetened beverages from off campus.
Diet soda and some fruit juices also will continue to be offered throughout the hospital.
“There’s sweetness in our food and we don’t want to take out what nature gives us, but we don’t want to provide additive sugars,” Feldman said.
The hospital also will have some flavors of sugar-sweetened beverages for patients when medically necessary.
Changes on the hospital campus are already visible inside the renovated gift shop, where sugar-sweetened beverages are not offered. The full implementation of the sales ban will begin May 1.
Local dietitians agree with the change at Children’s, but pulling sugary beverages out of your diet completely is not always the answer.
High sugar items, like soft drinks, should only be purchased on rare occasions, said JoAnn Klein, registered dietitian/manager of retail operations with Premier Health. “I would promote water.”
Premier Health has a program to promote healthy eating habits, but will continue to offer sugary beverages, Klein said.
Dayton Children’s will join other children’s hospitals across the country including Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus when it quits selling the sugary drinks.