June , 2018

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Public Health Organizations Cite Urgent Need for Investments in Prevention & Medicaid

Springfield, IL – The Illinois Senate Public Health Committee held a hearing on the Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Act [HB 5690/ SB 3524], a bill to fight the Illinois obesity epidemic and raise an estimated $600 million for prevention and health care in Illinois through a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugary beverages.

The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity (IAPO), a statewide coalition of over 140 organizations, hailed the hearing as a critical first step in raising awareness among lawmakers and the public on the scale and cost of the obesity epidemic, and how the HEAL Act would help by channeling much-needed revenue into prevention, wellness and Medicaid programs.

“This is the first time the General Assembly has seriously considered a meaningful investment in prevention and wellness programs like this proposal,” said Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute, the convening organization of IAPO. “Today’s hearing acknowledges that the human and financial toll of obesity is one this state can no longer afford. IAPO will continue to advocate for this legislation in the months and years ahead.”

“When I took on this charge, I knew it would take time – but addressing obesity is critical and I’m committed to this for as long as it takes,” said Senator Mattie Hunter (D- 3rd District), the bill’s sponsor and Vice-Chairperson of the Senate Public Health Committee. “Today my colleagues and the public got to hear from a national expert the hard facts on the toll and cost – over $4 billion each year –  of obesity-related diseases that I see harming people in my district every day. This is a serious epidemic, and we simply cannot afford the financial or human toll any more. The HEAL Act will help us invest in solutions we know work and help people live healthier lives, and I’m glad we were able to discuss it today.”

Testifying on the findings from his research was Dr. Frank J. Chaloupka, distinguished professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of Estimating the Potential Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Other Beverage Excise Taxes in Illinois. “Our study found that an excise tax such as that proposed could reduce childhood obesity by 9.3%, diabetes by 3,400 new cases, and save taxpayers more than $150 million in state and private healthcare spending in just the first year. And a study we just published showed that this tax will not hurt our economy with no net impact on jobs.”

The proposal places the new revenue into a Wellness Fund with half of the money supporting initiatives that promote nutrition, physical activity, school health and wellness, oral health, access to healthy foods, worksite wellness, and community-level public health leadership around obesity prevention. The other half of the funds will support the Illinois Medicaid Program, expanding the set of prevention services available to Medicaid recipients as well as restoring cuts to the program from previous years, such as coverage for adult dental care.

A sugary beverage tax is supported by several national, state, and local organizations. “Sugar-sweetened-beverages (SSBs) are the number one source of added sugar in American diets and the evidence linking SSBs to obesity and related risks is very strong. If we are serious about tackling the problem of obesity, we should start with a target, like SSBs, which will allow us to have early and significant success,” said Dr. Goutham Rao, Chairman of the American Heart Association’s Obesity Committee, who also serves as the Vice Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago and Associate Director of the Center for Clinical Research Informatics of the NorthShore University Health System.

“Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is one of the American Diabetes Association’s legislative priorities,” said Dr. Louis Philipson, Director of the Kovler Diabetes Center at the University of Chicago Medical Center and President of the Association’s Community Leadership Board in Chicago/Northern Illinois. “79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes if appropriate lifestyle changes including dietary modifications do not occur. Being overweight and increased consumption of sugary beverages has been linked with the development of type 2 diabetes. The Association supports Senate Bill 3524, the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Act, and believes it may play an important role in decreasing obesity rates and diabetes prevalence in Illinois.”

“We think Illinois should celebrate this first step in moving toward being a healthier state,” said Janine Lewis, Executive Director of EverThrive Illinois.

Organizations that have signed on in support of the HEAL Act include:

  • AIDS Foundation of Chicago
  • American Cancer Society- Cancer Action Network
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate
  • Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition
  • Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of IL
  • EverThrive Illinois (formerly the IL Maternal and Child Health Coalition)
  • Illinois Academy of Family Physicians
  • Illinois Action for Children
  • Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention
  • Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
  • Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators
  • Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Illinois Public Health Association
  • Illinois Public Health Institute
  • Illinois Society of Public Health Educators (ISOPHE)
  • Illinois State Dental Society
  • McLean County Wellness Coalition
  • Ounce of Prevention Fund
  • SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana
  • Seven Generations Ahead
  • Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center

More information about the HEAL Act is available via factsheets on the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity’s website-www.preventobesityil.org. More information about the health impact of sugary beverages can be found at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/.

Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity: www.preventobesityil.org

The primary goal of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity is to ensure that trends in obesity in Illinois are stable by 2015 and moving downward by 2018. The statewide coalition of over 140 organizations works to implement solutions to the obesity epidemic through coordinated and comprehensive policy, systems, and environmental changes.

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