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On Oct. 26, the City’s Health and Human Services Director Evonda Thomas-Smith announced the launching of the City’s “Re-Think Your Drink” campaign to limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. The program is funded by a $10,000 grant from NorthShore University HealthSystem, which will serve as the City’s partner in the campaign.

Ms. Thomas-Smith thanked NorthShore for its “unwavering support in assisting this department in improving the lives” of Evanston residents.  The campaign is largely educational, seeking to make the link in residents’ minds between “sugar-sweetened beverages and health risks” such as diabetes and heart disease, said Ms. Thomas-Smith. The result may be the introduction of new policies that encourage healthier drink options such as water, she added.

Dr. Lynn Chehab of NorthShore, who serves as the consulting pediatrician at the Evanston Township High School health center, said the American Heart Association recommends that a person have only four teaspoons of added sugar per day. She held up a baggie containing four teaspoons of sugar to demonstrate.

“A 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew has 19 teaspoons of sugar, which is the equivalent of 19 pieces of Halloween candy,” said Dr. Chehab, hold up the soda bottle, a baggie with 19 teaspoons of sugar, and a baggie with 19 pieces of candy as she spoke.

“Nobody should be drinking sugar-sweetened beverages,” Dr. Chehab concluded.

Gabrielle Hatley, a senior vice president with NorthShore, also addressed Council. Sugar- sweetened beverages “are key contributors to obesity. Adults who drink at least one soda a day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese – regardless of income or ethnicity,” she said.

The campaign will launch with educational programs taking place across the City in public spaces, schools and other venues, said Ms. Thomas-Smith.

When Ms. Thomas-Smith heard about the opportunity for a grant, Evanston’s Health Department put together a program plan in less than two weeks, she told the RoundTable. The plan consisted of a seven-page proposal, complete with proposed budget, timeline, and evaluation metrics.

Evanston will be the first program on the North Shore to receive the Rethink Your Drink grant. The program matches the Department’s goals of a healthier and educated community, said Ms. Thomas-Smith.