Conquering Cavities Drop by Drop

By Elaine Herscher, Senior Editor

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in the United States have tripled. The country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world, with one out of three children overweight or obese.

Armed with funding generated by the Oakland soda tax fund, LifeLong Medical Care’s Chief Dental Officer Dr. Miriam Parker and staff have been out in the community working to educate people about the hazards of sugar and the value of good old H2O – but with a twist.

She’s been at community events giving away infusion water bottles and encouraging parents to taste cucumber water and watermelon water as alternatives to soda. Staff also come equipped with plastic bottles with clear beads for a visual representation of how much sugar is in a 20-ounce bottle of soda. The excess calories and sugar from soda have been linked to the childhood obesity epidemic, not to mention what a tidal wave of sugar does to children’s teeth.

“We engage with them asking, ‘Do you really know how much sugar you’re consuming when you have a soda? Do you know how much sugar you should consume in a day?’” Dr. Parker says. “And then we show them by how much a single soda exceeds their daily dose, and that’s not even including the foods they eat. And so, our population is becoming obese and hypertensive because from a very young age, we’re not aware of how much sugar we’re consuming.”

Dr. Parker’s has also campaigned against sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley with funds from Berkeley’s soda taxes. Last summer, she brought the campaign to a park down the street from Elmhurst United Middle School in Oakland, where LifeLong has a school-based health center. “A lot of other organizations had samples, but they didn’t have the infusion bottles, and nobody had the educational display like we had. Everybody came up and told us we had the best display. We were really proud of that!