February 21, 2009

In The News: Opening Up A Can Of... Worms

Did any of you watch 20/20's investigative report on the children of Appalachia two weeks ago?

If not, you can watch it here. Truly eye-opening -- and heartbreaking.

I finally caught up with it last night (thank you, DVR!).

One segment focused on the dental health of children and adolescents in that area; more specifically, the problem of "Mountain Dew mouth."

As a result of extreme soda consumption (Mountain Dew is given to children in sippy cups and considered an ailment for depression), children as young as two years of age are developing cavities.

Some elementary school students have such damaged teeth that the simple act of brushing is painful -- too painful to be accomplished.

In an attempt to help, dentist Edwin Smith spent $150,000 of his savings to turn an 18 wheel truck into a mobile dental clinic.

This segment has set off a firestorm among the nutrition community. All sorts of questions are being asked -- and hotly debated.

Is it accurate to blame soda -- and a specific brand at that -- for cavities?

Or does the lack of dental hygiene awareness and access to dental care set the stage for problems regardless of the types of food eaten?

After all, starchy foods like bread, rice, and crackers are just as likely to increase cavity risk. And many people drink soda and don't get cavities.

What is most interesting is Pepsi's response to this. Make that responses -- three of them!

Here is the first one.

Notice the drastic change in tone in their second statement.

And, finally, here is the short third statement that followed.

As if that wasn't enough, Diane Sawyer gave further updates on Good Morning America last week. The big announcement? PepsiCo. decided to pay for a second mobile clinic.

What role -- if any -- should Pepsi play in this? Is their donation of a second mobile clinic a form of aid or just a publicity stunt for good PR?

What about local and federal government? Should they be involved?

Then we get to the hottest button issue of all. How does this problem begin to get addressed? Education? Policy? Some sort of hybrid?

I'm even more disturbed by the fact that, as a result of mountaintop mining for coal, tap water in much of the Appalachian region is contaminated and undrinkable.

Please weigh in with any opinion(s) you may have.

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