MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Marlene B. Schwartz PhD
Director, Rudd Center for Obesity & Food Policy (Principal Investigator)
Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
University of Connecticut
Hartford, CT 06103
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a community-wide campaign to reduce consumption of sugary beverages in Howard County, Maryland. We measured the retail sales of sugary drinks in supermarkets in the target community and a set of matched control supermarkets in another state. The campaign included multiple components over three years, including television advertising, digital marketing, direct mail, outdoor advertising, social media and earned media, creating 17 million impressions. The community partners successfully advocated for public policies to encourage healthy beverage consumption in schools, child care, health care and government settings.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: The main findings are that sales of sugar-sweetened soda decreased nearly 20% in Howard County, while sales for the same products remained stable in the comparison stores. Significant differences in beverage sales were also observed for fruit drinks and 100% juice, which both decreased more in the target stores than the comparison stores. We did not see a significant impact of the campaign on the sales of sports drinks or diet soda.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: A locally designed, multicomponent campaign to reduce sugary drinks can lead to a meaningful decrease in sales of regular soda. Sports drinks, however, appear more difficult to influence, perhaps due to a “health halo.”
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: This multi-component campaign was based on the social ecological model, and included not only direct communication to consumers, but also several policy change initiatives. Other communities that want to promote healthier beverages may choose to employ a similar approach and build upon this research by assessing the impact of the campaign on different subgroups within the population.
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Schwartz MB, Schneider GE, Choi Y, Li X, Harris J, Andreyeva T, Hyary M, Highsmith Vernick N, Appel LJ. Association of a Community Campaign for Better Beverage Choices With Beverage Purchases From Supermarkets. JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 06, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9650
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