Dear Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald,
Congratulations on your appointment this year to be Director of the Center for Disease Control. All Americans trust in, and benefit from, public servants who are dedicated to building systems and practices that keep us all healthy and safe. As the recent results of Hurricane Harvey and Irma have shown, foresight, preparation, and brave action are the constant call of those who work for the best America we can be.
In that spirit we are writing to invite you to join us in celebrating the First Annual International Quit Soda Day this October 20.
As you know, and as the CDC website notes, "frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout." As you are also aware, Georgia has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the United States. Since Atlanta is home to both the CDC, which is charged with protecting us from these diseases, and Coca-Cola, which is the largest manufacturer of one of the leading contributors to these diseases, you can understand why we feel your vocal support for this launch is crucial.
We see this issue as not only one of health, but also one of justice and equality. Tobacco companies have a shameful history of targeting minority communities in our country and funding lung cancer "research" favorable to their poisonous product. We have been alarmed and saddened to see Coca-Cola undertake similar strategies, such as Coke's internally circulated "Vision 2020" plan, which laid out quite blatantly the company's plan to target minority communities. We hope you will join us in the fight to make sure soda companies are not allowed to actively poison our African American and Hispanic youth.
[[For reference, "Vision 2020 is Coke's plan to double its business by 2020... This aggressive plan is focused on dramatically increasing consumption of sugary beverages by young people using precision marketing that targets young people, mostly in Latino and African-American communities in the United States, and in developing countries abroad..." -Joe Tripodi, Chief Marketing Officer for the Coca-Cola Company in 2014.]]
We know that you have recently faced tough questions about your past relationships with Coke and your recent tweet about risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes--an infographic that failed to include the number one risk factor, soda and sugary drinks. But we also know that you have taken on your new role in part because you care about the health of Americans, especially America's children. Please let us know if you can join us in support of the First Annual International Quit Soda Day on October 20. You might participate via live video feed or by submitting a pre-recorded message in support of this important public health event.
Our nonprofit will be celebrating this launch at public schools, hospitals, and community centers throughout the United States. We are eager to include your message in our efforts to empower youth with the truth about soda and sugary drinks so they can choose health over a path to chronic disease.
Kevin Strong, MD
Advocate for Health Equity and Social Justice
Founder of the nonprofit, Dunk the Junk