The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is taking criticism for a $10 million grant it received for childhood obesity prevention and research.
The money is from the Foundation for a Healthy America, a nonprofit created by the non-alcoholic beverage industry.
Critics say accepting such a large gift from an industry that makes soda, a contributor to childhood obesity, presents a conflict of interest.
However, Ron Hill, a business ethics expert at Villanova University, says it is not uncommon for tobacco, alcohol and drug companies to fund research. And it is possible for conscientious researchers to stick to the science and ignore politics. But he still thinks it’s a bad idea.
“You kind of rob Peter to pay Paul to some extent,” Hill said. “You may need the money to conduct the research, but if you’re conducting the research with these perspectives in mind, you could have a dramatic effect on your reputation and the institution you stand for. And, in the long run, it’s a bad policy.”
Children’s Hospital spokesman George Bochanski said the hospital stands by its acceptance of the money. He said hospital officials knew from the beginning of conversations about the gift that critics would question the choice.
“I think what we would say to some of those critics is if they had an opportunity to take a significant grant like this and to put it to the use of helping thousands or potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals, would they reject that opportunity?” Bochanski said.
Bochanski said the hospital will have complete control over what it decides to study with the funds and how any research is published. He said the money will triple the number of patients who will be served by the hospital’s Healthy Weight Program.