As a nurse, a professor and a health care advocate, I have seen the harmful health effects that can occur as a result of a sugar-laden diet. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are on the rise. These illnesses have been linked to the high consumption of sugar. However, these illnesses are preventable. I urge the Cook County Board to take that into consideration when voting on a one-cent-per-ounce sugary beverage tax.

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Sugary beverages are the No. 1 source of added sugar in the American diet. A decline in consumption could prove incredibly beneficial to the physical health of residents and the fiscal health of Cook County. This is an investment in the health of our communities at a time when budget woes threaten the most essential healthcare programs.

Too often, we see lower income and minority communities targeted by the beverage industry, and unfortunately, those are the communities suffering most from the adverse health effects of an overly sugary diet. Using a portion of the revenue from the tax, the county can work to implement community programs, influence prevention and bolster the health care system.

A sugary beverage tax is just one important piece of the health puzzle. But it’s something we can achieve now. Public health experts predict that taxes can be one of the most effective policy strategies in achieving health equity. More so, the World Health Organization recently recommended that countries implement taxes on sugary beverages to help lower consumption and in turn reduce the prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and tooth decay.

We cannot just stand by and watch our communities endure these health burdens. We need to do something now; it is time for Cook County to act!

Karen Larimer
President, Metropolitan Chicago Board of Directors
American Heart Association and American Stroke Association