In February, Senator Mattie Hunter (D- 3rd District) and Representative Robyn Gabel (D- 18th District) reintroduced the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Act [SB 1584 and HB 2667], which would provide tools and resources for Illinois families to live healthier lives by generating more than $600 million dollars a year for investment in communities across the state through a small tax on sugary drink distributors.
The bill’s reintroduction was covered by news outlets across the state and country. Link to highlights below:
“The act would provide kids, families and communities with the tools they need to live healthier lives through investment of money from a small excise tax on sugary drinks, which are the single biggest source of added sugar in Americans’ diets and contribute to high rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.” – IAPO executive director Elissa Bassler and Dr. Goutham Rao in a letter to the editor in the State Journal-Register
See the HEAL Act benefits for communities:
“What we want to happen through education and dialogue is for Americans to realize there’s the immediate cost to their pocketbook and a long-term cost to their health and the health of their kids,” IAPO partner Mark Peysakhovich, senior director of government relations for the American Heart Association, on the high cost of sugary drink consumption.
Sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet and have unique and proven health hazards. In Illinois, 62.2% of adults are overweight and 27.6 % are obese, and nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. Read more.
“El exceso de azúcar en nuestra dieta causa muchos problemas de salud, la más común es la obesidad. Casi la mitad de los niños que vienen a nuestra clínica, un 48% tiene sobrepeso”, dijo el doctor Alejandro Clavier, pediatra y director médico de Esperanza Health Center
Approximate translation: “Excessive sugar in our diets is linked to many health problems, the most common being obesity. Almost half of the children that come to our clinic are overweight,” said Dr. Clavier of Esperanza Health Centers.
The HEAL Act would help improve the health of Illinois communities, especially those most devastated by sky-high rates of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. African Americans have the highest heart disease mortality rates in the state and Latinos are twice as likely to develop diabetes as Caucasian Americans. Across Illinois, low-income communities of all types face great barriers to being healthy.
“It’s the low-income people who are being affected the most from major diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even some cancers, as well as obesity, so I think the industry will throw anything out there to distract from the issue.” Listen to HEAL Act co-sponsor Senator Mattie Hunter hit back against criticism that sugar-sweetened beverage taxes disproportionately impact low-income people.
Supported by more than 25 organizations, IAPO is optimistic that the HEAL Act could pass the Illinois General Assembly this year and is committed to a longer-term multi-year effort, if necessary.
“It’s a matter of time,” said Elissa Bassler, executive director of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity. “The momentum is just growing.”