For decades, studies have told us that sugary drinks are bad for our health for a vast number of reasons. They can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and more. Yet soft drinks are omnipresent and almost always less expensive than drinks such as bottled water or low-calorie juices.
Starting in September, the Johns Hopkins Health System is doing something to encourage people who drink them to change their habits. Five JHHS-affiliated facilities—Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Howard County General Hospital, Suburban Hospital, and Sibley Memorial Hospital—will implement the Healthy Beverage Initiative, a program meant to help faculty, staff, and guests choose healthy options, says Richard Safeer, medical director for the Employee Health & Wellness Center at Johns Hopkins Healthcare.
Stickers will categorize every drink sold in vending machines, cafes, and cafeterias and at hospital-sponsored events. The lowest-calorie beverages, like water and unsweetened tea, will have a green sticker next to them. The sugary beverages, like soft drinks and high-calorie sports drinks, will have red. And the beverages in between, like low-calorie juices and sports drinks (think Vitamin Water or Powerade Zero), will have yellow.
Johns Hopkins also will shift prices so that green- and yellow-labeled drinks are more affordable.
"At this point, health is taking precedence over beverage profit," Safeer says.
Facility managers at the university's buildings on the East Baltimore campus are discussing implementing the Healthy Beverage Initiative as well. "I am hopeful that some modifications can be made to make it easier for students to drink healthier, but there are no definite plans yet," Safeer says.
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