TMA Memo on HB 127: Beverages Sold to Students

To: Chairman Lois Kolkhorst and Members

House Public Health Committee

Date: March 9, 2011

Re: House Bill 127 Relating to the types of beverages that may be sold to students on public school campuses -- Author: Representative Carol Alvarado

The Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society believe promoting physical activity and access to healthy foods on school campuses is a key to preventing obesity among our Texas children. Both of our organizations, which represent more than 45,000 physicians and medical students in the state, support Rep. Carol Alvarado’s efforts to limit children’s access to beverages of minimal nutritional value while they are in school. Representative Alvarado’s bill comes at an exciting time for child nutrition advocates. 

Americans consume on average 200 to 300 more calories each day than we did 30 years ago.  Almost half of those calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks, which can contain as much as 16 packets of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle and an unbelievable 26 packets in a 32-ounce serving.  Moderate consumption of these drinks can also have health consequences. A 2004 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 91,000 women who drank one or more sugary drink a day were 83 percent more likely to develop diabetes over a four-year period than those who drank less than one a day.  

School-aged children spend an inordinate amount of the day in school. Although parents certainly have the ability to send healthy lunch and snack foods to school with their children, it is not unreasonable for parents to expect their children to have access to healthy beverages at school as well. House Bill 127 seeks to refine current public school nutrition requirements to ensure children are accessing healthier options.  

Obesity usually begins in childhood. Obese children have an 80-percent chance of staying obese their entire lives. The average lifetime cost of obesity is over half a million dollars for an obese child who remains obese throughout adulthood. It’s key to teach children behaviors at a young age so that they grow with healthy habits and create healthy lifestyles.

Our physicians see the health effects of childhood obesity every day, including 9 and 11 year olds with newly diagnosed type II diabetes and 8 year olds with high blood pressure — all a result of their obesity. Ultimately, it is more expensive to treat an obese adult than provide primary prevention for children.  A 2003 study in the Obesity research journal concluded that $14 a year invested in student nutrition and physical activity programs can save more than $15,000 in medical costs and over $25,000 in loss-of-productivity costs associated with adult obesity.  There is no better time than now to make decisions that will improve both the physical and fiscal health of our state.
  

TMA and TPS again would like to thank Representative Alvarado for her efforts to promote healthy eating among children. Texas has been a leader in implementing public school nutrition policy and soon will be implementing national standards with the passage of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. We believe House Bill 127 offers another opportunity to continue making improvements in state nutrition policy for our schoolchildren.

We appreciate the committee’s thoughtful deliberation on these and other matters related to student health.

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