Developmental optometrists provide vision care to a significant number of children. There is no doubt that over the past 10 years, the percentage of those children that are overweight and obese has increased dramatically. With a more comprehensive approach to vision development specifically and health care in general, every developmental optometrist has their own perspective on approaching this medical issue with their patients and parents. A recent editorial in Optometry (the journal of the American Optometric Association) encourages all optometrists to step out of their comfort zones in order motivate our patients to maintain good health and healthy habits.
As a developmental optometrist with significant interest in these public health issues, I am intrigued by the push by New York’s Governor Paterson to levy a tax of one penny per ounce on soda and other sugared drinks. The argument is that the increase in price will decrease consumption and therefore decrease obesity rates across all populations, including children. Could a “sugar tax” have a positive impact on the health and vision of all my patients, or is it really that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” If I believe in the relationship between reducing soda consumption and reducing obesity, then I am less likely to oppose a tax that is, in fact, about closing the budget gap.
Childhood obesity is a multi-headed monster and a sugar tax alone will not slay this beast. My own philosophy is that I will take any assistance I can get in helping my patients improve their vision and overall health. If this helps me save even one young patient from the vision loss and disability associated with obesity, chronic illness and diabetic eye disease, then I am victorious.