Two cents for prevention will reduce suffering and save hundreds of billions

Two cents for prevention will reduce suffering and save hundreds of billions

The California Legislature is abuzz with internal debates about its priorities in the Trump era. It is imperative that we remind them there is one public health crisis unfolding today for which action must be taken now: the Diabetes epidemic that arises from poor nutrition. It is a matter of social justice, public and environmental health.

A recent UCLA study found that forty six percent of Californians are likely to be pre diabetic. Currently only eight percent are diagnosed with the disease, but the resulting amputations, blindness, Alzheimer’s, heart and kidney failure already cost our state $37 billion per year in lost productivity and treatment. This horrific pre diabetes data could eventually mean nearly two hundred billion per year of losses and expenditures to the state on top of monumental suffering.

Sugary beverages are a primary source of added sugar in American diets. Each can, cup or bottle fuels the epidemic. With President Trump’s looming disruption, if not destruction, of the Affordable Care Act and its prevention programs, we should impose a health impact fee on the distribution of these potent disease delivery systems to create California’s own prevention programs.

Four California cities (Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco) have imposed fees already and they are working to reduce consumption and raise money to prevent disease. Both privileged and poor families supported these ballot measures despite the beverage industry spending millions to distort the facts and sow fear. Research data out of Berkeley, which passed one in 2014, show reduced consumption without loss of income for grocers and corner stores. People buy less sugary drinks and more water. The state needs to follow this proven path.

But we face a roadblock. The sugary drink industry uses its immense profits to buy state legislator support through campaign contributions and has stopped previous attempts to pass a statewide fee. This unholy alliance is condemning our kids to early death and suffering. It is unjust, short-sighted and reveals a moral corruption that must end.

Roots of Change is a guiding member of a large coalition of social justice, sustainable agriculture and public health advocacy groups sponsoring an innovative bill designed to solve the root causes of the disease. AB 2782, the Healthy California Fund, would impose a 2-cent per oz. fee on distribution of sugary beverages. The current estimate is that AB 2782 would raise $2.2 billion per year for the Fund. The money would be used to prevent Type 2 Diabetes and related illness, particularly in our kids. School food, physical and nutrition education would be greatly improved. Preventive healthcare clinics for low-income families would be made more robust. Hundreds of millions in grants to community-based organizations would be made available to build thousands of fresh food and clean water sources and outlets. These grants would spawn edible urban gardens and peri-urban farms and local food enterprise, along with jobs in places that need them most. Nutrition incentive programs, like Market Match, that make fresh produce affordable for of low-income families would be supplied with millions more in funding. Prevention is the key to ending the epidemic and creating a healthier populace. A Healthy California Fund is the right solution.

The California Legislature has a chance to redeem itself this year with a health impact fee on sugary drinks that puts the emphasis on prevention and health food access. Please join us by signing this petition, sending a letter or making a phone call to the Legislature to “crush the can” and support the Healthy California Fund.

Communities have proven they want action. The likely dismantling of Obamacare will destroy prevention programs that our families and our budget need. California’s Governor and Legislative leaders have declared California will remain the nation’s progressive policy leader in the Trump era. With AB 2782, The Healthy California Fund, they have the vehicle to demonstrate such leadership in the public health arena. Now is the time to act.