Tackling sugary beverages and obesity

The City created a series of advertisements meant to educate people to drink healthier options
The City created a series of advertisements meant to educate people to drink healthier options

In 2011, Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission made a major move to ban sugar-sweetened beverages from sale on City property. It was a controversial and groundbreaking step. The executive order came because of the link between sugary drinks and rising obesity rates. And in a city where 40 percent of the public schools kids are rated overweight or obese, the Mayor chose to remove this one source of carbohydrates and calories from public buildings.

“We are in the midst of a health crisis in the city of Boston,” the Mayor said at the time.

The city didn’t make the sweeping move of trying to ban soda and sugary drinks citywide; it simply made the decision not to allow city government to sell the products in its buildings.

The city also issued advertisements aimed to educate the public on healthy beverage alternatives.

In 2012, the Mayor’s policy gained high-level support when 10 Boston hospitals came together to adopt the city’s sugary beverage ban in their facilities.

Dr. Paula Johnson, a cardiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and chair of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Board of Health, said at the time, “Hospitals play a critically important role in public health, not only in delivering high quality medical care once people are sick, but in setting norms about how we can all live healthier lives and prevent disease in the first place. As leading institutions in our community, hospitals should be environments where making the healthy choice is the easy choice for patients, visitors, and staff.”

The executive order, ad campaign, and expansion to hospitals required teamwork across varying levels of government and the private sector, as well as proper messaging by the Mayor’s press office.

Mayor Menino has earned praise for his efforts to improve public health during his 20 years in office.