Recently, President Trump announced his pick to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the government agency charged with monitoring and managing significant public health problems. That pick is Georgia physician Brenda Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald served most recently as Georgia’s Public Health Commissioner. One of her signature achievements in that role was a childhood obesity project called Georgia SHAPE—a project underwritten by, yes, Coca-Cola.
SHAPE sounds eerily familiar to other Coca-Cola funded front groups claiming to work to reduce childhood obesity. It focuses on increasing physical activity but is silent about the role sugary drinks play in obesity. Clearly, the program aligned closely with the agenda of its million dollar benefactor.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Coca-Cola has cultivated or even placed friends in high places at the CDC. Last year, Dr. Barbara Bowman, director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, resigned after emails showed she was helping the beverage industry fight back against newly published guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) that recommended restricting sugary beverages in the diet.
After Dr. Bowman resigned, we found out that Coca-Cola had ties to another CDC official, Michael Pratt, senior advisor for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Pratt had worked closely with another beverage industry front group, the International Life Sciences Institute, which, you guessed it, promotes the idea of “energy balance” and exercise as the key to combatting obesity.
These cases are far from unusual. Previously, investigative reporting revealed that Coca-Cola was bankrolling the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a nonprofit that claimed to fund research into the causes of childhood obesity, but, in reality, pushed a program that claimed lack of exercise, rather than poor diet, was primarily responsible for the obesity epidemic. The bad publicity caused GEBN to close down in late 2015. After all, what use is a front group if its real backers and objectives are exposed.
Update (8/1/2017): We’ve just learned that Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald was board certified in anti-aging medicine by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), suggesting that she is a friend to the natural health community. Despite the connection to Coca-Cola in her previous role, we are hopeful that Dr. Fitzgerald will use her new role as director of the CDC to advance the cause of natural health.
Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health: