While childhood obesity rates remain high in parts of Contra Costa County, public health officials are encouraged by a survey released today that shows a majority of voters in Richmond and the state feel the issue is a serious problem that must be addressed.
According to a statewide Field-Poll, The California Endowment Childhood Obesity Prevention Survey, even after the beverage industry spent $3 million lobbying in Richmond, 66% of the voters in Richmond would support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages if the money is earmarked for improving school nutrition programs and expanding physical activity programs.
Additionally, 75% of statewide voters said that regularly drinking sodas like Coke or Pepsi increases a person’s chance of becoming overweight or obese.
“Obesity is endangering our children’s health and future and we know that sugary drinks are playing a significant role,” said Community Wellness and Prevention Program Manager Tracey Rattray with Contra Costa Health Services in a podcast released today. “People are noticing the ill effects of childhood obesity, like increased risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases.”
Studies of Richmond and San Pablo by Contra Costa Health Services in 2011 found 52% of elementary school children were either overweight or obese. In addition, almost 80% of San Pablo residents and 75% of Richmond residents live within walking distance of a place that sells sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the studies.
“Our communities are saturated with outlets for sugar-sweetened beverages,” Rattray said. “What we’re seeing from this survey is a strong desire for healthful alternatives to sodas and junk foods, as well as opportunities for residents to be more physically active.”
The Field-TCE Survey found that statewide support for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages increases from 40% to 68% when proceeds are used to improve school nutrition and physical activity programs. Public Health Director Dr. Wendel Brunner with Contra Costa Health Services said that Sugar Sweetened Beverages are a major cause of the childhood obesity epidemic.
“The typical youth in Richmond and San Pablo consumes 150,000 calories a year of sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages alone,” Dr. Brunner said. “A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, with the money directed at programs to prevent childhood obesity, can be one effective way to combat this epidemic.”
To find out more about obesity in Contra Costa, visit www.cchealth.org/obesity/