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Hard-hitting campaign urges Colombians to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages

(August 1, 2016, Bogotá, Colombia and New York, USA) – Vital Strategies today congratulated Colombian health advocacy groups Educar Consumidores and Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria on the launch of a new national campaign that urges Colombians to protect their health by reducing their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The campaign is an adaptation of a campaign that helped to change attitudes and build support for policy change in Mexico, ultimately leading to the implementation of a soda tax. Vital Strategies provided technical support for the design and implementation of the campaign, which is expected to reach around 24 million Colombians – more than half the population – over the next three months.

WHO estimates that Colombians have a 12 percent chance of dying prematurely from non-communicable diseases. Health experts and advocates in Colombia are concerned that high levels of consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and drinks are contributing to the country’s burden of preventable disease. Around 20 percent of Colombians between the ages of 5 years and 64 years consume soft drinks or soda daily. Half the population consumes soft drinks or soda every week. Consumption is highest among people aged 14 to 30 years (28 percent) and children aged 9 to 13 years (21.6 percent). While levels of consumption are higher in urban areas, they are similar across all socio economic groups.

Commenting on the launch of the campaign José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vital Strategies, said:

“Added sugars are a major risk to health in Colombia, but this risk is entirely preventable. As we have seen in Mexico, policy interventions like soda taxes can have a significant impact in reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, but consumers also need to understand why these policies are needed. Governments and advocates must overcome decades of industry marketing messages that have associated sugar-sweetened beverages with happiness and health – when the reality is that they contribute towards obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. With Ministry of Health surveys indicating that more than half of Colombians are overweight or obese, it is clear that urgent change is needed.

“We support the campaign’s call for Colombians to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and urge the Government to implement policies to support that objective. We applaud Educar Consumidores and Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria on their commitment to protecting the health of Colombians young and old, and congratulate them on the launch of this important campaign. Vital Strategies is delighted to have provided technical assistance and stands ready to provide further support in the future.”

The campaign includes a public service announcement (PSA) that will be broadcast on national, regional and local TV channels, in cinemas and on radio. The campaign will also be promoted online and across social media, on billboards and in print advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

The PSA shows a man reaching for a bottle of juice in the morning, who goes on to consume an ice tea at midday, a soda with dinner and a couple more sodas during the evening. Viewers are informed that he has consumed the equivalent of 62 cubes of sugar in those five beverages. Hard-hitting images are shown to graphically demonstrate that a high-sugar diet causes health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Viewers are urged not to harm themselves by consuming sugary drinks, and switch to water, milk or tea without sugar instead. The PSA ends with a call to action, asking viewers to “CUIDA TU VIDA, TOMALA EN SERIO” (Take care of your life, take it seriously).

The PSA, which is available to view at Vital Strategies’ YouTube channel, and stills and transcripts of the PSA are available upon request.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies envisions a world where every person is protected by a strong public health system.  Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change.  Vital Strategies was formed when The Union North America and World Lung Foundation joined forces.  It is an affiliate of The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or