A community-based medical provider is teaming up with partners to encourage healthier beverage consumption in the borough.
The Healthy Beverage Zone project launched on Tuesday, April 18 at a Hostos Community College event.
HBZ seeks to encourage individuals and institutions to limit consumption of sugary drinks like sodas and sports drinks in the interest of public health.
The borough-wide initiative grew from a Union Community Health Center project that pediatrician Dr. Vanessa Salcedo, who is HBZ co-chair, help begin over a year ago to combat childhood obesity, liver disease and diabetes at UCHC.
The doctor said that in the many cases she sees, as soon as families and children cut back on sugary drinks and beverages, health outcomes improve.
The initiative that started at UCHC is now backed by a $10,000 grant from Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association, and National Association of Counties and went borough-wide on Tuesday, April 18.
HBZ is also in the running with 50 other municipalities for a $500,000 grant with the outcome of that contest based on the quantifiable success of the program.
“The evidence shows that sugary beverages are causing a lot of these diseases,” said Salcedo, adding “We are asking a cross section of organizations to improve beverage standards within their organizations and serve as community role models.”
UCHC is teaming up with principal partners Bronx Health REACH, NYC Department of Health and Bronx Neighborhood Action Center, said Salcedo.
Organizations participating in the program include hospitals, clinics, community associations, houses of worship and private sector employers who voluntarily agree to implement healthy beverage standards, she said.
“We want to get more Bronxites drinking water as an alternative to sugar sweetened beverages,” said Kelly Moltzen, initiative co-chair and a program manager for Creating Healthy Schools and Communities at Bronx Health REACH.
The campaign will include an informative website, ‘toolkits,’ factsheets, posters, as well as a social media campaign on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, said Moltzen.
There are four levels of participation an organization can obtain, each one progressively showing a higher level of commitment, said Moltzen.
One typical action that organizations will take as part of the program is to remove vending machines with soda and sugar-sweetened juices and teas and replace them with those selling water or unsweetened juices, she said.
Another action is instituting a healthy beverage policy at organizational meetings in which only drinks like coffee and other healthier beverages are served, she said.
“We wanted to leverage what Union Community Health Center has done and share it as a best practice to encourage other organizations to do the same,” said Moltzen.
Among the many dignitaries who attended the program launch event was Senator Gustavo Rivera, who said HBZ was a very good idea and that he was proud to partner with UCHC on it.
“I think it is a solid policy idea and a good way to get people to make better choices about what they put into their bodies,” said Rivera.