Things go better with Coke, the old slogan used to say, but a Harvard nutrition researcher known for battling the obesity epidemic isn't buying it.
The American Academy of Family Physicians, which represents more than 94,000 family doctors across the country, has accepted a one-year, six-figure grant from the Coca-Cola Company to "develop consumer education content on beverages and sweeteners for FamilyDoctor.org," the group's web site for patients.
Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health has made an offer to the group: Use our free web site.
"While consumers need such educational materials, I think developing them with funding from Coca-Cola has the potential to call into question the objectivity of the information being disseminated," Willett wrote in a letter dated Monday. "There is plenty of well-vetted material already available on this topic ... to which your website could easily link -- free of charge."
An academy official said its consumer alliance, whose first member Coca-Cola was announced last month, was formed for a different reason. The academy is looking for other sources of revenue beyond member dues and unrestricted grants from pharmaceutical companies that support continuing medical education and exhibits at annual meetings, according to Dr. Douglas Henley, academy executive vice president and CEO. He would not give an exact figure for the deal.
"There's a very solid firewall between the unrestricted grant we get from the funder vs. the development and production of the content they present," he said about pharmaceutical company support. "We intend to do exactly the same thing on the consumer side with the Consumer Alliance. Coca-Cola and any other company we do an alliance with know and understand that before we sign a contract, the content is ours and totally independent."
Henley said he is familiar with the Harvard web site, which urges consumers to avoid high-calorie, sweetened drinks, which research has linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
"It's a very good web site with great content about beverage choices and beverage information on all types, not only sugary beverages but fruit juice and sports drinks and coffee and tea," he said. "We appreciate Dr. Willett's offer and we really are looking for other credible sources of information ... to develop content on our web site."
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|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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