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2022 Year in Review: Behind the Numbers

Barbados Food Policy Campaign
"Are We Drinking Ourselves Sick?" was a 2022 campaign supported by Vital Strategies in Barbados which called on the government to support policies that reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Discussing the challenges of lead poisoning
Local leaders discuss the challenges of lead poisoning at a site in Indonesia as part of Vital’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program.
As a part of the Partnership for Healthy Cities initiative, high-fatality intersections in the downtown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic were given crosswalks and other pedestrian protections and traffic-calming measures to reduce speeding.
Terrel is a harm reduction advocate and worker, who appeared in Vital Strategies' Overdose Prevention Initiative’s national Support Harm Reduction campaign which was launched in February 2022 and seen over 5 million times.
Rwanda has quadrupled its registration of deaths in the country with Vital Strategies support. At this hospital in Kigali, Sister Fortunata Nzwige (midwife and vital events notifier) and Happy Mwkizu (data entry clerk) enter data at the hospital.
Youth Union in Vietnam advocate for smoke-free beaches
Young people from Binh Thuan Youth Union in Vietnam advocate for smoke-free beaches.
Vital Strategies trains Accredited Social Health Activists
Vital Strategies trains Accredited Social Health Activists, professionals who act as a bridge between the health care system in India and the community, on air pollution and how to mitigate its effects on health.
Elected Officials and community members with the National Support Harm Reduction Campaign Memorial in Newark, NJ 1
Vital Strategies created the first traveling national Overdose Memorial, and the first installation was unveiled in Newark, New Jersey on International Overdose Awareness Day with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and local advocates.
Participants during the amendment of the maps_Cameroon_Oct 22 1
Vital Strategies' Civil Registration and Vital Statistics program, part of the Data for Health initiative, supported a workshop in October 2022 in Mfou, Cameroon to develop an action plan for institutionalization of CRVS process maps.
On Nov. 17, the city of Buenos Aires carried out a tactical urban planning project aimed at redistributing the use of streets, gaining space for pedestrians, and achieving a real change in drivers' behavior so that they adapt their speed to 20 km in school environments. Children and adults painted streets with messages calling for slower speeds and dedicated bike lanes.

Colombia's Legislature Passes a Tax Designed To Reduce Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages


“Healthy Taxes Now” (#ImpuestoSaludableYa) was a mass media campaign that aired in Colombia in 2022 to build support for proposed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

To reverse the rapidly rising trend of noncommunicable disease—including heart disease, diabetes and cancer—diets must shift away from ultra-processed products and sugar-sweetened beverages. Vital has supported partners in Colombia in their efforts to promote health over beverage industry profits. In 2022, lawmakers took action.


tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, to be fully implemented in Colombia by 2025.

People who regularly consume sugar-sweetened drinks—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than people who rarely consume such drinks. Taxation is one of the most effective ways to reduce purchases: Evidence from the U.S. shows that a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks that raises prices by 20% can lead to a reduction in consumption of around 20%. In Mexico, two years after the introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, households reduced their purchases of those products by 7.6% and households with the fewest resources reduced their purchases by 11.7%. (Sources)

How did Colombia's legislature approve the groundbreaking tax on sugar-sweetened beverages despite big lobbying efforts by multinational beverage companies?

In 2012, Latin America became the world’s leading consumer of sugar-sweetened beverages. When Vital Strategies’ Food Policy Program began in 2016, advocates and civil society organizations in Colombia were already pushing for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. In the seven years since then, there have been seven mass media campaigns, 10,224 signatures of support, a global pandemic, fierce opposition from the food and beverage industry, three changes of president and one mighty effort from Colombian civil society partners. The result? In December 2022, Colombia’s president signed the tax reform that includes a hefty tax on sugar-sweetened beverages—topping out in 2025 at 20% for the beverages highest in sugar.


When opponents of the tax organized a hearing, civil society arranged demonstrations to draw media attention, including this one organized by Vital’s partner CAJAR. It featured a batucada (a marching band) and stilt walker—a strategy discussed and approved by the entire coalition of civil society organizations working on food policy in Colombia. The demonstrations brought media attention to the issue.


“Healthy Taxes Now,” (#ImpuestoSaludableYa) was one of seven campaigns that ran in Colombia to build support for the proposed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Together with partners, Vital Strategies supported seven media campaigns that reached more than 14 million people in Colombia.

With this, we seek [to allow] consumers to make informed decisions about their diet and to reduce the consumption of ultra-processed products that have a negative impact on the health of Colombians."
Carolina Corcho Mejía
Minister of Health and Social Protection in 2022
Passage of the 'healthy tax' on sugary drinks and ultra-processed food is inspirational and paves the way for improving the diets and health of Colombians. It also allows other countries to see what is possible."
Trish Cotter
Global Lead, Vital Strategies Food Policy Program

What does Vital Strategies do?

Vital supports local partners in five countries to research and develop strategic responses to policy proposals related to food and its impacts on health.

Vital has helped to develop close to 600 mass media campaigns to change behaviors and build support for policies on tobacco, road safety, food policy, overdose prevention and more.

Vital’s Food Policy program works in five countries and shares lessons learned between countries. In 2022, Vital and The Heart Foundation of Jamaica published an article in the journal Nutrients showing that a mass media campaign increased Jamaicans’ knowledge about the dangers of sugary drinks and increased their support for a tax on sugary drinks. Vital has also built evidence on the effectiveness of similar taxes in Mexico and South Africa.

Vital Strategies awards Healthy Food Policy Fellowships to support future leaders and build research and legal capacity in focus countries. Successful applicants are awarded a multiple-year fellowship for the duration of their Ph.D. program (up to five years) to support their studies at top universities in their home country or abroad.

Challenges and Solutions

How do you talk about new taxes when the cost of living is increasing in Colombia?

We positioned the tax as necessary to improve health, and only affecting people buying unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages.

How did Vital and our partners adapt the campaign messages so they can make the biggest impact?

We built public support for the tax by presenting it as a healthy tax that would help, not hinder, the economy. We highlighted the negative impact that sugar-sweetened beverages have on people’s health and the environmental damage caused by producing these products.

How do you choose one policy to advocate for when the issues affecting the food environment are so complex?

Taxes have been the most effective intervention to reduce purchases of harmful products including tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Our Impact

Vital Strategies and Global Health Advocacy Incubator, participated in the debates on the tax reform law

The coalition of civil society organizations in Colombia, together with Vital Strategies and Global Health Advocacy Incubator, participated in the debates on the tax reform law, which includes the taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.


In December 2022, Colombia’s president signed the tax reform that included taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages—beginning at 10% for the drinks highest in sugar in 2023 and increasing to 20% by 2025. Carolina Corcho Mejía, the Minster of Health and Social Protection at the time, tweeted the news right away.

Lasting Results

Vital Strategies continues to support partners in Colombia so the tax can be fully implemented without manipulation from the beverage industry. We expect the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages will be a model for other countries that are grappling with the challenge of addressing poor diets and the resultant increase in noncommunicable diseases.