By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

1010-news-bigsoda_WP

The American Heart Association will continue supporting taxes and other work to improve people’s health by decreasing sugary drink consumption, the organization said Monday in response to a new study about Big Soda funding nearly 100 health groups.

Daniel G. Aaron, a Boston University medical student, and Dr. Michael B. Siegel, a BU community health sciences professor, identified the sponsorships from 2011 to 2015, by Coca-Cola or PepsiCo to groups or programs “involved in the public’s health,” according to their report published online Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The report included groups involved in public health, medicine, government and food supply. In addition to nonprofit organizations such as the AHA, the report listed a total of 96 entities as varied as the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the National Dental Association to The Center for Food Integrity and Girl Scouts of the USA. It also listed the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Cardiology.

The AHA said no amount of funding from soda companies would impact its continued fight to increase taxes on sugary drinks, remove them from kids’ meals in restaurants and increase access to safe drinking water. The AHA supports such measures to lower people’s risk for heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the world.

Our pursuit of ideal heart and brain health for all individuals is, and will be, relentless. On most days, that means the American Heart Association will work with food and beverage companies to expand access to healthy food, even while those companies oppose the work we are doing to create healthier communities,” the organization said in a statement. “We will continue to pursue all available options to decrease consumption of sugary drinks, including strongly advocating for current efforts to raise sugary drink taxes in Oakland, San Francisco and Albany, California, as well as Boulder, Colorado, the state of Illinois, and Alabama.”

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown recently lambasted Big Soda in her weekly Huffington Post column, saying the beverage industry was playing games with the public’s health by fighting a recently passed soda tax in Philadelphia.

One of the primary sources in the study focuses on Atlanta-based Coca-Cola’s “transparency” site, which allows the public to view, by keyword and year, all of the “health and well-being” groups it funds.

In the case of the AHA, the website cited expenses related fruit juices participating in the Heart-Check mark program designed to help shoppers select healthier products. Other payments reported on the site were related to local events including the 2015 Atlanta Heart Walk and the Go Red For Women awareness campaign.

“We also recognize these companies have better-for-you products, including water, fruits and vegetables,” the AHA said. “To achieve our goals, we must engage a wide variety of food and beverage companies to be a part of the solution.”

The total amount reported on Coca-Cola’s website represents a fraction of one percent of the AHA’s annual budget. The AHA could not confirm the accuracy of the site’s numbers as of Monday evening.

The AHA relies on donations and sponsorships to fund work for its mission. As such, the AHA accepts money from many companies both within communities and nationally.