Health Department Launches “The Sour Side Of Sweet” Sugary Drinks Campaign

August 1, 2017

The Health Department today announced a new media campaign and educational materials on the health dangers of consuming sugary-sweetened beverages.

Latino and Black children had three to four times higher rates than White children.

The drinks include soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit punch and other fruit-flavored drinks. The new campaign, The Sour Side of Sweet,” illustrates the health impact of sugary drinks while reminding New Yorkers to avoid sugary drinks and not to give them to children. The campaign will appear on TV, digitally and in daily newspapers throughout New York City. The Health Department also published a new Vital Signs report, Sugary Drink Consumption among New York City Adults, Youth and Children.” Overall, sugary drink consumption declined among New York City adults between 2007 and 2015. The rate of decline accelerated in 2012 and 2013, then stagnated from 2013 to 2015 as reported in the 2016 Mayor’s Management Report. In 2015, almost a quarter of adults, or 1.5 million people, reported consuming one or more sugary drinks daily. Sugary drink consumption among the youngest New Yorkers (age birth to 5 years) was measured for the first time in 2015. Latino and Black children had three to four times higher rates than White children.

As part of the City’s ongoing efforts to reduce sugary drinks consumption and prevent chronic disease, NYC Health + Hospitals – the largest public health care system in the United States, serving over one million New Yorkers annually – will eliminate sugary drinks (excluding 100% fruit juice) from its vending machines. Earlier, it had stopped providing sugary beverages with patient meals. The health system’s dietary policies for events it holds are also being reviewed. The American Medical Association recently adopted a policy encouraging hospitals to replace sugary beverages with lower-calorie options like water and unsweetened beverages. The de Blasio administration is committed to reducing obesity and diabetes – two drivers of premature mortality – and is currently discussing additional steps to educate New Yorkers and make healthy beverages more accessible.

“Our environment does not always support healthy choices, and sugary drinks are often disproportionately marketed to youth, in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “All New Yorkers, especially our youth and their parents, should know “The Sour Side of Sweet” – that there are many health risks associated with consuming sugary beverages.”

“Sugary drink marketing and unhealthy food environments disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in New York City,” said Director of Food Policy Barbara Turk. “‘The Sour Side of Sweet’ campaign, eliminating sugary drinks from hospital vending machines, and policies and programs to improve the food environment in institutions and neighborhoods are all in support of our goal to build a food system that serves all New Yorkers with access to healthy food and beverage choices.”

“Sugary drinks can lead to weight gain, which is linked to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease – some of our most concerning health problems. Consuming these empty calories is also associated with tooth decay,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Marketing aggressively targets youth and communities of color in a strategy that amounts to racial profiling. It is the responsibility of our entire community – including government, businesses, health care providers, schools, child care providers and families – to ensure environments help New Yorkers make healthy choices.”

“The health risks associated with the empty calories from sugary beverages present a clear-cut argument against making it easier to buy them,” said Stanley Brezenoff, interim president and chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “We educate our patients and our staff about healthy eating and drinking, and this is an obvious extension of that education.”

As part of Take Care New York 2020, the Health Department has set a goal to reduce the number of adults who drink at least one sugary beverage per day to 19 percent over the next three years.

The Health Department is a leader in developing innovative policy and education efforts to inform New Yorkers about the health risks associated with sugary drinks. Past initiatives, carried out with support from the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, include:

Public education campaigns to raise awareness about the negative health effects of sugary-sweetened beverages and promote drinking water. Campaigns include “Sounds Healthy” (2014-15), “Skinny Kids” (2015), and “Drink NYC Tap Water” (2016).
Updated child care center regulations around physical activity and nutrition, which increased the availability of drinking water and restricted high-calorie and high-fat beverages for children.

Working over the past two years with over 70 elementary schools in the Neighborhood Health Action Centers catchment areas to establish school-level wellness policies.
Funding to train 200 lifestyle coaches to deliver the National Diabetes Prevention Program in English and Spanish to partner community-based organizations.
A new educational brochure about the harms of sugary drinks and the aggressive marketing of these beverages. The brochure was distributed to community partners and the agency’s Health Action Centers.

Expanding the Shop Healthy NYC program to engage community residents, food retailers, food suppliers and distributors to increase access to healthy foods, including making low-calorie beverages more available. Shop Healthy NYC targets neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and limited access to nutritious foods.

The new Vital Signs report again shows the striking disparities of sugary drink consumption. Sugary and sweetened beverage consumption was consistently higher among Black and Latino adults and children than among their White, Asian and Pacific Islander peers. In addition, the report looked at the disparity between city neighborhoods – the highest sugary beverage consumption clustered primarily in the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens, while Manhattan neighborhoods were in the lowest consumption group. A 2011 New York City retail audit demonstrated a higher prevalence of sugary drink advertisements in neighborhoods with high sugary drink consumption than in neighborhoods with low consumption.

Significant data points from the Vital Signs report include:

  • Between 2007 and 2015, sugary drink consumption was higher in Black and Latino adults compared to White and Asian/Pacific Islander residents every year. In 2015, the percentages according to race and ethnicity were: 34 percent Black, 30 percent Latino, and 15 percent White and Asian/Pacific Islander.
  • Among public high school students, the prevalence of sugary drink consumption did not change between 2013 and 2015.
  • Sugary drink consumption among White youth declined significantly between 2013 and 2015 (from 38 percent to 29 percent) but not among Black, Latino or Asian/Pacific Islander youth.
  • Sugary drink consumption among the youngest New Yorkers (age birth to 5 years) was measured for the first time in 2015. Latino and Black children had three to four times higher rates of sugary drink consumption (31 and 28 percent, respectively) than White children (8 percent).

The Health Department also offers recommendations and resources for health care and dental providers, schools and child care centers, community leaders and organizations, retailers and restaurants to support healthier beverage choices. Download the Guide to Healthy Eating and Active Living to learn simple steps and resources for creating healthy habits here.

“Over the past 30 years, consumption of sugary beverages in United States has more than doubled,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz. “I’ve been making the case for years that drinking sugary beverages increases cases of diabetes and catastrophic diseases. As we create a healthy nutritional environment for our children, we secure their health and future. The new ‘Sour Side of Sweet’ campaign will help achieve this goal.”

“Healing the body starts with changing old habits and taking care of what you consume,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend DOHMH Commissioner Bassett for leading this campaign to reduce consumption of sugary drinks across the city. The science has clearly proven that diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments are directly linked to unhealthy diets, particularly high sugar intake. My experience with overcoming Type 2 diabetes through diet demonstrated the power of low-sugar living. We can all make better choices and take care of our health, and cutting the sugar is a great place to start.”

“The American Heart Association encourages New Yorkers to ‘rethink your drink’ and choose healthy beverages like water instead of sugary drinks, and we applaud the city’s work to educate everyone about this important health topic,” says Robin Vitale, Vice President of Health Strategies for the American Heart Association in New York City. “Research indicates that consuming sugary drinks poses a real health risk for New Yorkers of all ages, including elevated risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The African American and Latino communities in our city have been disproportionately impacted by the negative consequences of consuming sugary drinks. The AHA will continue to raise awareness about this important topic and work with the DOHMH to identify new and creative solutions to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.”

“New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene once again shows our nation true public health leadership with its new media campaign on the health risks of sugary drinks and its partnership with the city’s hospitals to eliminate sugary drinks from hospital vending machines,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest President Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. “Even more important – and troubling – are the data from its Vital Signs report showing that sugary drink consumption is higher among Black and Latino adults and children. These are findings that are likely true across our nation’s cities and illustrate why other public health departments need to show the same courage and commitment.”

“We are committed to the health of all New Yorkers and the nation. As NYC’s latest Vital Signs report shows, there is much work to be done to reduce the risk of sugary drink consumption and reach Take Care New York 2020 goals. New York City has undertaken a common sense approach that will surely be a model for other cities and a healthier nation,” said Jane L. Delgado, PhD, MS, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. “We all should live in communities that promote health and not in communities where relentless targeted advertising of sugar sweetened beverages leaves diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and illness in their wake.”

“Beverage companies do not market to all communities equally. Black and Hispanic communities like those in the south Bronx have been heavily targeted by them,” said Charmaine Ruddock, Project Director for Bronx Health REACH at the Institute for Family Health. “We believe that the ’Sour Side of Sweet’ media campaign will help to counter the beverage companies marketing with the possible result that Bronxites may become much less inclined to fall victim to the unhealthy marketing and instead become greater consumers of non-sweetened beverages like water.”

“On Staten Island we are urging residents to ‘rethink their drinks’ and avoid sugary beverages, which have been linked to high levels of chronic disease in our borough and across the city,” said Adrienne Abbate, Executive Director of the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness. “As we fight surging rates of childhood obesity in our communities, we are alarmed by the levels of sugary drink consumption in black and Latino communities who already face significant health disparities. We are grateful that DOHMH is working to spread awareness of the consequences of sugary drink consumption and these significant health inequities.”

Download the new educational handout in English/Spanish or English/French.

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