Hospital Bans Sugar-Sweetened Soda and Sports Drinks to Improve Public Health

Washington, DC — In a national first, Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, MA, has announced the elimination of the availability of soda and sports drinks sweetened with sugar in its hospital facility. The hospital stated that a recent vote by the Massachusetts House of Representative to ban the sale of soft drinks in schools on obesity grounds caused the hospital to take the action in the interest of public health.

"The healthcare community has an obligation not only to treat, but to help prevent these conditions, some of which are at epidemic levels."
— Walter Willett, MD, MPH
Chair, Nutrition Department
Harvard School of Public Health

Fairview was the first hospital in Massachusetts to sign Health Care Without Harm’s “Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge.” By signing the pledge, hospitals commit to a number of activities to help them provide fresh, healthy foods to their patients and staff, to ensure the healthiest treatment possible but also as a model for healthier choices outside of the hospital setting. “As the leader of healthcare in the southern Berkshires, we are committed to creating a healthier community and will set the pace by influencing healthier lifestyle choices,” said Fairview President Eugene Dellea.

“Sodas, and other sugary drinks are associated with a host of health effects and increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, metabolic syndrome, and dental caries,” stated Walter Willett, MD, MPH, Chair of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"The healthcare community has an obligation not only to treat, but to help prevent these conditions, some of which are at epidemic levels," Willett continued. "It is a logical and significant step, that the healthcare community creates a social and cultural environment that promotes health, by eliminating the sale of sugared sodas and sports drinks.”

Dr. Willett sits on the Leadership Team for Boston’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work Initiative, for which the City received $12.5 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to fund chronic disease prevention. As a part of this initiative, HCWH has been funded by the Boston Public Health Commission to work with Boston hospitals on the elimination of sugar sweetened beverages in their facilities.

Many hospitals enter into exclusive agreements, or “pouring rights” contracts with the sweetened beverage industry. In return for direct payments or subsidies, hospitals limit their sales to one company’s products and negotiate product placement. Both Coke and Pepsi are on a three-year business partnership contract with the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Last year, the American Academy of Family Practice announced a controversial partnership with Coca-cola, which was widely denounced by its membership.

”We have a paradox, where the sweetened beverage industry, whose products are associated with a host of negative health effects, has effectively created an environment that is contrary to the goal of primary prevention. ” stated Jamie Harvie, chair of the Health Care Without Harm Healthy Food Systems Initiative.

A recent study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that that 24 percent of adults drink one or more non-diet sodas a day, and these adults are 27 percent more likely to be overweight. The results for children were children ages 2 to 11 imbibe at least one sugar-sweetened drink a day.

The American Heart Association recommends that most women should be getting no more than 6 teaspoons a day, or 100 calories, of added sugar while for men the recommended limit is 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories. One 12-ounce can of soft drink contains about 8 teaspoons of added sugar, which equals approximately 130 calories.

“By eliminating sugared drinks from his hospital, Fairview President Eugene Dellea has demonstrated vital leadership in primary prevention and clearly recognizes the important role of hospitals in creating health promoting environments.” stated Harvie.

Fairview Hospital is a national leader in food-based disease prevention and health promotion. Their initiatives include the following:

  • Elimination of trans-fats
  • Elimination of deep fryers
  • Nutrition labeling
  • Serving more whole grains
  • Purchase of sea¬sonal, locally-grown produce and products produced without hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics.
  • Hospital employees spon¬sored an on-site vegetable garden
  • Support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act

For more information about Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, which has now been signed by nearly 300 hospitals, visit

HCWH has an ambitious healthy food agenda, which includes buying fresh food locally and/or buying certified organic food; avoiding food raised with growth hormones and antibiotics; encouraging group purchasing organizations (GPOs) to support healthy food in healthcare; supporting local farmers and farming organizations; introducing farmers markets and on-site food box programs; reducing food waste; and establishing an overarching food policy at each health facility. Visit for more information.


Heath Care without Harm, an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, is working to transform the health care sector, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. To learn more about HCWH's work, visit our website at, our YouTube channel at HCwithoutharm, and our twitter feed at hcwithoutharm.