Evanston receives $10,000 for campaign against sugary drinks

Elena Sucharetza, Assistant City Editor

NorthShore University HealthSystem announced Monday it will donate $10,000 to Evanston’s Health and Human Services Department in support of a public education campaign against sugar-sweetened drinks.

The donation will mark the launch of the citywide “Rethink Your Drink” campaign, an initiative to educate residents about the amount of added sugar in popular drinks and encourage the consumption of healthier drink options.  

“These beverages are key contributors to obesity,” said Gabrielle Hatley, senior vice president of NorthShore University HealthSystem. “Adults who drink at least one soda a day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese regardless of income or ethnicity.”  

The campaign’s goals include two phases to educate Evanston’s residents about sugary drinks, said Evonda Thomas-Smith, director of the Health and Human Services department. She said the first phase includes coordinating an awareness campaign to spread information about health risks of excess sugar at worksites and schools. The second phase involves advocating for policy changes that support Rethink Your Drink and help shift drink consumption to beverages like water.

“Our primary charge with Rethink Your Drink is to educate everyone about healthy drink options and make the link between sugary drinks and serious health issues,” Thomas-Smith said.

Dr. Lynn Chehab, a pediatrician at Evanston High School Health Center said children also need to know about the effects of added sugars. She said a new program by NorthShore for Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will start in January to educate third through eighth graders about the extra sugar in their diets from sweetened drinks.  

“The American Heart Association says you should only have up to four teaspoons of added sugars per day,” Chehab said. “A 20 oz. Mountain Dew has 19 teaspoons of sugar. That’s the equivalent of 19 pieces of Halloween candy.”

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