Has our nation's top doctor, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, turned into a spin doctor? His latest public health initiative, the Step It Up campaign to promote walking, is so misleading that it's got me wondering whose health he's protecting: the American people's or the food and beverage industry's?
The Step It Up campaign is alarmingly similar to Coca Cola's Coming Together campaign, which enlisted scientists with impressive-sounding credentials to promote the idea that the root cause of our obesity epidemic is not over-consumption of sugary beverages and processed foods, but rather a lack of exercise.
This is just flat-out false. As Katie Couric and I documented in our movie Fed Up, scientists who aren't subsidized by the food industry will tell you that although exercise is critical for our physical and mental well-being, the most effective way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to reduce your consumption of empty calories.
Naturally, the soda companies are on the defensive. Their job is to make money, and they need to encourage kids to keep on slugging down sodas even though we now know it's the biggest source of empty calories and sugar in our children' diets.
People are starting to get the message, so the soda industry -- with help from the Surgeon General, now -- is suggesting that you don't need to cut back on soda, you just need to get out and walk more. What they don't tell you is that in order to burn off the 250 calories in a 20-ounce soda, you'd have to walk five miles.
Back when the tobacco industry was still allowed to advertise, one of the most famous slogans was "I'd walk a mile for a Camel." Where are the billboards proclaiming "I'd Walk Five Miles for a Coca-Cola?" Banksy, are you listening?
Why is our Surgeon General launching a campaign that just reinforces Coca Cola's profit-driven propaganda? The Surgeon General of the United States was once a uniquely trusted individual whose job it was to educate Americans about how to lead safer, healthier lives using the best available science. They warned us about the dangers of tobacco and the Aids epidemic.
Of course, we're all in favor of everyone getting out and walking more; who isn't? And every community should have decent sidewalks and places where kids are safe to play or ride their bikes. But all this emphasis on exercise is just the latest effort to confuse the public about how to make healthy choices.
That's why Katie and I have launched a Kickstarter campaign to make Fed Up available to every teacher in America. Every teacher who signs up on the Fed Up website gets a free copy of the film in English and Spanish, a Fed Up Food Education kit that allows for unlimited school screenings, a 60-minute version of the film and a comprehensive study guide.
Someday, I hope we'll have a Surgeon General who has the courage and integrity to step up to the plate and promote real solutions based on legitimate science. Until then, we've got to counter Coca Cola's Coming Together Campaign and the Step It Up campaign with our own call to action.