The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s “Renew LA County” initiative has launched its first-ever “sugar-loaded drink awareness” campaign aimed at addressing what it says is a major contributor to the county’s obesity epidemic.
Fueled by the release of local data on obesity and sugar-loaded drink consumption, the campaign will inform the public of the amount of sugar in popular drinks such as sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks, and the direct impact that excessive consumption of sugar-loaded drinks has on obesity, especially for the county’s children.
The campaign will illustrate the amount of sugar in popular drinks by showing the equivalent amount of sugar packs and asking the question: if you wouldn’t eat that much sugar, why are you drinking it? Campaign elements will include shareable social media videos, an interactive sugar calculator, targeted Facebook ads, posters, flyers, outreach to schools, paid transit advertisements, online videos and more.
The shareable videos, featured on the Choose Health LA website and Facebook page, show a 20-oz. soda, a 20-oz. sports drink and a 16-oz. energy drink being poured into a glass. As the liquid is poured, it turns into sugar and then into sugar packs showing the average sugar content for the different drinks. Similar visuals will be used throughout the campaign.
More than 58 percent of adults in Los Angeles County are overweight or obese, and almost 23 percent of county children in grades 5, 7 and 9 are obese. For younger children, obesity rates have increased from 16.7 percent in 2003 to 21.8 percent in 2008. “If we’re serious about doing something about the disturbing obesity trend, we have to start with the biggest culprits,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “There is a tremendous lack of awareness about the amount of sugar in these drinks. Our goal is to empower all county residents, especially parents and caregivers, so they can make informed decisions about their drink choices for themselves and their families.”
Among adults in Los Angeles County, nearly 39 percent report drinking at least one soda or sweetened drink per day, far exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommendation of no more than 450 calories from sugary drinks per week, or fewer than three 12 oz. cans of soda.
The obesity problem also directly impacts Los Angeles County’s economy. Health care and lost productivity resulting from overweight and obesity cost the county nearly $6 billion annually.
The campaign encourages residents to reduce the amount of sugar-loaded drinks they consume, whether that means replacing a daily soda with water, cutting back on the number of sugared coffees or teas they drink, or reducing the consumption of sports drinks with all exercise. Suggested healthy alternatives include water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened coffee and 100 percent fruit juice diluted with water or sparkling water.
In addition, Renew LA County is pursuing successful policy interventions to help make Los Angeles County’s communities healthier by working closely with cities, schools and employers to increase access to healthy foods and beverages in high-need communities.