|Fall/Winter 2006||Volume 22, Number 1||Findings Magazine|
AMA President-Elect: Soda Tax?
When Ron Davis, M.D., M.A., becomes president of the American Medical Association in June 2007, he’ll be the first doctor with board certification in preventive medicine to hold that post—and he’ll be one of a very few AMA presidents to bring a public health background to the job. Not surprisingly, Davis, an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, hopes that during his three-year tenure as AMA president-elect, president, and immediate past-president, he can help forge new and closer ties between public health and medicine. He talked to Findings about one of his plans for fostering collaboration between the two fields:
"Both sectors are hurting financially. Public health, obviously, has seen its budgets cut in state and local public health agencies for many, many years, despite a demand for more funding. Physicians are under siege from Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, professional liability insurance premiums that are going through the ceiling, and the need to convert their medical records to electronic forms. So what if we were to find a new source of funding that would bolster the infrastructure of both medicine and public health? I see four sources of funding for both medicine and public health that we could work on together to procure.
“One is tobacco settlement funds, which unfortunately have been allocated almost entirely to non-health purposes. Number two would be tobacco taxes, and earmarking revenues to prevention programs and programs that serve vulnerable populations, such as Medicaid. Three would be alcohol taxes. While we have increased tobacco taxes in many states in recent years, alcohol taxes have been virtually ignored by the federal government and almost all states for 20, 30, or 40 years, which is ridiculous.
“And the fourth area is a tax on sugary soft drinks. Soft drinks—especially sugar-sweetened soft drinks—are a logical target for taxation and earmarking of revenues for health programs because of the contribution of sugar-sweetened soft drinks to the obesity epidemic, especially among youth. Sugary soft drinks, in fact, are the #1 source of caloric intake for teenagers in this country. If you impose a one-cent tax on each 12-oz soft drink, you would raise more than $1.5 billion annually."
Davis has drafted a resolution asking the AMA to back federal, state, and local taxes on sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and it is currently under review by the association.
Photo by Peter Smith.
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Ron Davis in the new SPH Crossroads Cafe.