Leaders Discuss Sugary Drink Tax to End Poor Health in Latino Community

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

According to the American Heart Association, sugary drinks are the single largest source of added sugar in American’s diet. Sugary drinks are the cause of diabetes, some cancers, obesity, and heart disease that cost Illinoisans over $6 billion a year in health care costs. On Monday, Nov. 2nd, the American Heart Association organized a roundtable discussion with local leaders who have advocated sugary drink taxes on a national and local level. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Act introduced to Illinois Lawmakers, earlier this year, an act that would place a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and help generate an estimated $600 million yearly to invest in community programs that support nutrition and exercise, in addition restore cuts and fund prevention in Medicaid.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

At the roundtable discussion, Rebecca Berner, the institutional development director for El Poder del Consumidor, a nonprofit consumers right advocacy group in Mexico, shared positive efforts proponents in Mexico took to get the initiative passed in 2013. “Mexico is one of the world’s leaders in sugary drink consumption,” said Berner. “Before the tax was implemented, 70 percent of added sugar in the Mexican diet comes from sugary drinks and there are more than 24,000 deaths each year from soda consumption in Mexico.” Executive Director of the Latino Coalition Xavier Morales also shared gains in health in Berkeley, CA as he spearheaded a campaign that helped the city become the first in the country to pass a sugary drink tax in 2014. “Community meetings and going door to door to engage the Hispanic community were key in gaining support,” said Morales. Both Morales and Berner said Latino children are heavily targeted by sugary drink and junk food advertisements, which succumbs them to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke in their adult life. State Senator Mattie Hunter and State Representative Robyn Gabel, chief sponsors of the HEAL Act, along with State Representative Elizabeth Hernandez, a co-sponsor of the HEAL Act, attended the roundtable discussion.

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