October 30, 2018

Maryland Sugar Rush Comes to St. Mary’s County

The effect of sugary drinks on the health of St. Mary’s County children took center stage at the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership Annual Meeting in California, Md., on Sept. 13.

Sugar Free Kids Maryland teamed up with UnitedHealthcare for a “Maryland Sugar Rush” presentation that shined a light on how parents, students and healthcare professionals are working to promote healthier drinking choices and reduce sugary drink consumption in the county and the state.

Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland, explained what the coalition has accomplished recently in terms of protecting the state’s children from chronic disease and how it plans to continue promote healthy drinking choices throughout the state. The presentation included a short clip of “Jamie’s Sugar Rush,” in which British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver investigates the huge effect sugar is having on rising global health problems.

A panel of community leaders and health experts discussed the importance of these issues for St. Mary’s County residents and all Marylanders. The panel included UnitedHealthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arethusa Kirk, MedStar Health Pediatrician Dr. Beena Khetpal, American Heart Association volunteer and concerned parent Lori Irvin and Maryland Association of Student Councils representative for Sugar Free Kids Maryland Chad Leo.

“As a mother, I try to establish healthy routines for my children,” Irvin told nearly 50 members of the St. Mary’s County health community. “It really starts by teaching our kids that healthy habits result in healthier outcomes as they grow. Sugary drinks can increase the likelihood that an individual could develop an unhealthy weight, diabetes and even contribute to cardiovascular issues as adults.”

The panel sparked spirited discussion around the importance of choosing healthier options instead of sugary drinks and how St. Mary’s County can follow the lead of other Maryland jurisdictions that are making healthier drinking choices easier for the state’s families and their children.

“We were excited to talk to local health officials and professionals in St. Mary’s County about the dangers of sugary drinks and how we can build a culture of choosing nutritious options,” said McIntosh. “We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and building on this momentum.”