Live Sugarfreed gets its message out, rewards early supporters

Originally posted by Matthew Lane on Kingsport Times-News

KINGSPORT – For the past five months the Live Sugar Freed campaign has been working to get the message out about the health risks involved with drinking sugary beverages, while at the same time encouraging people to instead drink more water.

On Tuesday, campaign officials gave a progress report on the public awareness campaign taking place in the Tri-Cities and at the same time announcing the second phase of the campaign – free bottled water for those organizations who have worked to “Live Sugar Freed” since September.

The Live Sugar Freed campaign is an effort by local health and community leaders to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes, the rates of which continue to rise in the Tri-Cities region. Officials are encouraging people to drink water or other healthier beverages instead of sugary sodas, sweet tea, fruit-flavored drink and “energy” or “sports” drinks.

The campaign is a pilot project of “A Healthy America” – a national movement using prevention and the power of the media to solve our nation's greater health problems. “A Healthy America” is led by The Public Good Projects - a new non-profit organization of media, marketing and public health experts.

The national campaign kicked off last fall with mass media messaging on television, in newspapers and on the Internet. Officials say these channels delivered more than 6 million video, 2 million audio and 5 million static impressions throughout the Tri-Cities region.

“The average person has seen the ad 45 times over the past three months,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, CEO of The Public Good Projects.

Since the campaign started, Farley said more than 40 organizations have adopted Live Sugar Freed pledges, commitments to drink water instead of sugary beverages. Bronze pledges provide and promote water for drinking, Silver pledges actively discourage sugary drinks while Gold pledges have agreed not to sell or provide sugary drinks at all.

The City of Kingsport has pledged at the bronze level and has taken a number of “small steps” to help promote a healthier lifestyle – lower-priced water at city ballfield facilities, plans to install water fountains along the greenbelt and a water bottle refueling station within city hall.

“The city is committed to the health and wellness of its employees and citizens and we're working to make great progress on this initiative,” said Mayor John Clark.

The second phase of the Live Sugar Freed campaign involves celebrating the organizations and businesses that have taken the pledge and encouraging others to adopt healthier beverage polices. Kandy Childress, director of Healthy Kingsport, said organizations that have already taken the pledge and those who pledge during the next 30 days, will receive a free, three-month supply of bottled water. In addition, officials plan to roll out a new mass media campaign featuring the “Face of our community” where local participants will be shown enjoying water and touting its benefits.

“We're able to make a difference because of you,” Childress said of those in attendance on Tuesday.

According to the campaign, sugary drinks increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. One 20-ounce bottle of soda contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar. Since the average young adult drinks one to two sugary drinks a day, that adds up to 68 pounds of sugar a year.

In 1996, 17 percent of adults in Tennessee were obese. As of 2013, the percentage has grown to 34 percent with one in eight adults reporting they had physician-diagnosed diabetes. In a survey conducted by the campaign in the Tri-Cities region, adults age 18 to 45 reported drinking an average of 1.7 sugary drinks per day, while one in seven drank four or more per day.

Drinking one or more 12 ounce sugary drink per day increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 26 percent.

Alan Levine, president and chief executive officer of Mountain States Health Alliance, said obesity is an epidemic in our region.

“This is our problem and we need to find a way to solve it. A poor health outlook for our children rests on us to solve,” Levine said. “Where do we start? We start with options like this, educating people about the options available to them.”

Bart Hove, president and chief executive officer of Wellmont Health System, said Wellmont has worked extensively to show people how they can make beneficial choices to improve their lives.

“We recently implemented a new program that shares...information with our in-patients on their food tray liners about healthy foods, portion sizes and appropriate beverage choices,” Hove said. “Our diabetes educators also highlight the value of drinking water instead of sugary drinks, furthering our commitment to ensure the people we serve are not only becoming healthier, but staying healthy.”

Live Sugar Freed is supported financially by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, MSHA and Wellmont. For more information visit www.livesugarfreed.org.