AMA Adopts New Public Health Policies at Annual Meeting

The American Medical Association (AMA) has voted at its Annual Meeting to adopt the following new public health policies:

Public Health Lessons from the Gulf Oil Spill

New policy adopted will pair the AMA with the appropriate federal agencies to convene an expert panel to address the immediate and long-term human and environmental health impacts of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The AMA will also work to educate physicians, other health professionals and the public about the public health risks associated with exposure to crude oil and byproducts.

"How badly the oil spill and clean-up efforts will effect air and water quality in both the immediate and long-term remains unknown," said AMA Board Member Edward L. Langston, M.D. "It's important that the health community take a lead role in addressing the health implications of this oil spill."

Accurate Reporting of Fats on Nutritional Labels

Current FDA nutrition labeling requirements allow trans or saturated fat content to be reported as zero if the food product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans or saturated fats per serving. Under this current nutrition labeling, an individual consuming just one serving of a product labeled "trans fat free" or "zero trans fat" could in reality be consuming as much as 25% of his or her recommended daily allowance of trans fats.

"Reducing or eliminating the consumption of trans fats leads to good overall health and a lower risk for heart disease, but it's difficult to make dietary changes if food labels are unclear," said AMA Board Member Edward L. Langston, M.D. "To help facilitate clear, concise, and uniform labeling, the AMA urges the FDA to use more precise processes to measure the fat content in foods and include the most accurate nutritional information on food labels."

Decreasing the Incidence of Obesity by Reducing the Price Disparity Between Healthy and Unhealthy Foods

In general, calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods are less expensive than more healthful, nutritional foods and are more often consumed due at least in part to their lower price. Today, the AMA adopted policy supporting efforts to decrease the price gap between calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods and naturally nutrition-dense foods to improve health in economically disadvantaged populations.

"Consuming unhealthy, high fat and high calorie foods increases the risk for obesity and its health consequences," said AMA Board Member Edward L. Langston, M.D. "When the price difference between healthy and unhealthy foods puts healthy options out of reach, it's clear that something must be done to close the price gap and make healthy food options available to everyone."

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