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Big Beverage gives $10 million to CHOP

The soft-drink industry is funding a $10 million program for research and programs dealing with childhood obesity.

In keeping with a controversial pledge to made last year to City Council as part of an effort to ward off Mayor Nutter's steep tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, the soft-drink industry will donate $10 million to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to fund research into and prevention of childhood obesity.

The three-year grant is funded by a new organization, the Foundation for a Healthy America, created by the American Beverage Association, the national trade group representing manufacturers and bottlers. The ABA was instrumental in lobbying Philadelphia City Council to reject Nutter's proposal to tax sugary drinks at 2-cents per ounce as a way to cut consumption and raise money for the general fund.

In a press release Wednesday, CHOP insisted that it will "retain absolute clinical and research independence," as the source of its funding for the research is likely to come under attack from those wary of the beverage industry's influence. That includes funding for clinical studies to be submitted to peer-reviewed publications.

"The gift will support clinical care, policy research and outreach and prevention efforts relating to childhood obesity to help educate Philadelphia children about the importance of balancing calories and engaging in regular physical activity as ways to achieve a healthy lifestyle," according to the news release.

Specifically, the money will be used to triple the number of visits made under CHOP's Healthy Weight Program, hire new staff, promote an obesity research agenda, and provide education and training protocols for healthcare providers through CHOP's network.

"We are extremely grateful for this grant from the Foundation from a Healthy America which will allow The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to expand the reach of education and obesity awareness to thousands of additional young people and their families in our service area," said Steven M. Altschuler, M.D., chief executive officer of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "At a time when obtaining research funding is becoming more challenging, this support will produce tangible benefits for thousands of children in our region and beyond."

The beverage industry promised last Spring that it would fund such programs — though it had not identified a recipient at the time — to combat childhood obesity, which was one of Nutter's stated goals when he introduced the unsuccessful soda tax proposal. The Nutter administration complained that the industry's offer was improper.