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Hospitals banning sugar sweetened beverages, provinces cracking down on dangerous drivers. And get me an Apple Watch!

John Green -- Executive Producer
Stan Muller -- Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll -- Writer
Mark Olsen -- Graphics

Hospitals banning sugar-sweetened beverages, provinces cracking down on dangerous drivers, and get me an Apple Watch! This is Healthcare Triage News.


We've talked about the New York City soda ban on Healthcare Triage before; I still think it's a pretty bad idea. It was focused only on large soda sizes, wasn't applied equally to all businesses, and had lots of loopholes, and was passed as a matter of public policy. I still think it wouldn't have worked. Plus, it just seemed wrong in some ways for the government to ban something sort of random, like "large" sodas. That doesn't mean that organizations can't do what they want.

In 2011, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, banned sugar-sweetened beverages. Recently, researchers published a paper on what happened in the year after they did so. In December of 2010, they started reducing their orders of sugar-sweetened beverages, and they ran out of sugared soda by the end of the month. January of 2011, they removed all sugar-sweetened beverages from the hospital cafeteria, the food court, the coffee shop, and their gift shops. They still sold diet sodas, enhanced water, and fruit juice. They also continued to sell skim, low-fat, low-fat chocolate, and whole milk - such is the power of the milk industrial complex.

What happened? Beverage sales went up 2.7%! Yeah, soda sales went down, but all the other types of beverages went up! They reported that 11 complaints were lodged over the course of the year by employees and patients, which they handled individually. I want to stress that this was an individual organization, making a decision about whether to sell sugar-sweetened beverages on its property. They are free to do whatever they want. Anyway, they banned sugar-sweetened beverages, and the world didn't end. I don't know if it resulted in any major health changes, but it's an interesting data point.

Two weeks ago I talked about car accidents, and for this week's second story, I want to talk to you about trying to do something about them. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health looked at the effects of laws targeting speeding and drunk drivers. Some drivers are dangerous. Some provinces in Canada passed laws to target them. Then they compared what happened there to provinces that didn't pass such laws. And they also looked at Washington State, which of course didn't do anything.

What did they find? In the provinces that passed the laws, fatal car crashes decreased 21%. Hospital admissions decreased 8%. Even ambulance calls decreased 7%. Because the number of alcohol-related crashes pretty much halved, they were pretty confident that the improvements they saw were because of reduced levels of drinking and driving. And you'll remember that the US has pretty much the most relaxed regulations of driving and alcohol in the world.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who tweeted or emailed me, asking me snarkily if I was going to buy an Apple Watch after I spent an entire Healthcare Triage episode talking about why they will likely fail to move the needle on the collective health of the public. The answer is YES, I will pre-order one the second they're available. I've been going without a watch for years waiting for one. Just because I'm skeptical about their ability to revolutionize the healthcare system, doesn't mean they won't be awesome. Oh, I pre-ordered an iPhone 6 too; in fact, it may have arrived by the time you're watching this. Keep your fingers crossed!