Monday, June 4, 2012

More on the Parallels Between the Sugary Beverage Ban and the Accountability Movement in Health Care

Time for some DMCB humble pie.

Check out Troeltsch's perspicacious response to the Disease Management Care Blog assertion in yesterday's posting that a New York City ban on the sale of 16 oz. calorie dense beverages would "work":

What evidence do you have for the comment "it works?" particularly in light of the fact that soda is simply banned in restaurants, and not any where else in the city?

Troeltsch has both right. 

The proposal, as it now stands, would limit the ban to restaurants, street vendors and concession stands and spares grocery stores. So while New Yorkers couldn't buy that "Big Gulp" to-go, they'd still be able to buy that liter of fructose corn syrup-loaded soda and continue their gluttonous ways in the privacy of their own homes.

And what's more, the DMCB did a literature search and can find no published evidence that a calorie-dense beverage ban reduces the prevalence of obesity. Yesterday's claim that "it works" was simply overzealous. DMCB readers can not only spot non-scientific puffery at meetings, in news reports and in marketing materials, but also in the DMCB's weaker-moment writings.

Well done.

That being said, the DMCB still gives the Big Apple some credit. If you go to the original proposal, you'll see that the ban is only one of 26 initiatives that seek to improve nutrition and increase exercise in the city's public schools, alter sidewalk and building codes to promote physical activity, require hospitals to offer healthy menus, increase the availability and appeal of tap water and promote wellness, especially among public employees. This is commercial population health management writ large.

And the DMCB still stands by its original assertions. Mayor Bloomberg's attack on obesity in the name of public health should remind health care providers that a similar fate awaits their costly ways if shared savings, accountability, bundling, electronic records, the demos and ACOs fail to bend the curve. Instead of trimming excess calories, our politicians will trim excess costs by proclamation.

The DMCB offers three additional observations:

1) Peter Orzag, one of Mr. Obama's health reform architects, famously asserted that the Affordable Care Act's health mandate provision would increase a collective expectation that we should all buy health insurance, much like seat belt laws prompted most of us to buckle up. There may be something to that in the anti-obesity fight, says the DMCB, and Mayor Bloomberg's very public attack on sugary drinks may prompt his city to shift to a new cultural norm

2) The DMCB hopes NYC's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene devotes the resources it takes to adequately measure the impact of the ban. The rest of the country needs to know if this works.

3) Last but not least, if nothing comes of this, this is one more warning to a largely uncooperative and unrepentant food industry.

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