For years there has been a contentious debate about the influence powerful industries have over our politics. But what about industry influence on medicine and physicians?
Each year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) holds an annual conference where over 10,000 pediatricians and their families from around the world attend workshops and hear about the latest developments in pediatric medicine. This year's conference was held in early October in San Francisco.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is "an organization of 60,000 pediatricians committed to the attainment of optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults." This is the mission statement on the AAP web site.
A major feature of the AAP conference is the expansive exhibition hall. As usual, drug, vaccine and formula manufacturers dominated the hall with their enormous and extravagant displays some of which tower over all the others. There are also hundreds of booths providing information, samples and little "giveaways"...everything you could imagine that would remotely relate to pediatric medicine.
Although most dare not criticize the AAP publicly, many doctors have expressed privately their concern about the possible influence corporate sponsors/exhibitors have and whether this conflict undermines the mission of their honorable institution.
For example, the AAP has been outspoken about the need to address childhood obesity and diabetes. They have published policy statements encouraging the reduction of soft drink consumption, including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). According to the AAP Committee on School Health policy as it relates to soft drinks in schools, "each 12-oz sugared soft drink consumed daily has been associated with a 60 percent increase in risk of obesity".
So it came as a big surprise and upsetting to a number of pediatricians to see the inclusion of Sweetsurpise.com
http://Sweetsurpise.com- a promoter of HFCS for the corn refiners, and the American Beverage Association (lobbyist for soft drink manufacturers) - at the recent AAP national conference and exhibition in San Francisco.
These organizations paid the AAP sponsorship fees to exhibit at the conference and sponsor events, and the "Corn Sugar" group even arranged for a doctor - cardiologist James Rippe - to be present and "educate" pediatricians about the benefits of HFCS.
This mixed message has a growing number of AAP members horrified that their membership dues are being used to support companies that promote soda and corn syrup consumption. It also has members questioning the AAP's dependency on corporate support and willingness to compromise on its core principles.
AAP leadership should take a hard look at the contradiction between their mission and policy statements and the objectives of their corporate sponsors and make sure they do not conflict with one another. And they should avoid subjecting their members to the slick marketing campaigns of profit driven industries that put our children's health and well being at risk.