Brighton Takes on Sugary Drinks!

A while back we wrote about the marketing tactics of Coca Cola and others within the sugary drinks industry highlighting how hard it is for health professionals to compete with the kind of marketing budgets that inform consumer behaviour and choices.

So it was great see Brighton Council investing in their ‘Sugar Smart City’ campaign and they’ve even recruited celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to help. The aim of this campaign is to bring down the cities obesity levels and encourage a healthier, happier city environment.

It’s thought that the annual cost of diet related diseases to the NHS in Brighton and Hove alone is around £80 million. Given the scale of the problem and limited resources in tackling it Brighton and Hove Council have been proactive in teaming up with Jamie Oliver to fight the industry directly.

Part of the campaign includes encouraging food outlets and restaurants in the city to add a 10p tax to all soft drinks which include added sugar. To avoid this seeming like a busy body Council initiative to introduce a ‘stealth tax’ the Council are redirecting all money raised to ‘The Children’s Health Fund’.

Naturally one of the first restaurants to introduce this is the Brighton branch of Jamie Oliver’s own restaurant chain. Oliver had previously pushed the government to impose a higher national tax on the sugary drinks industry. Being a seaside resort Brighton is teaming with unhealthy ‘treat’ type food outlets and the effects of this are having a impact on the health of those living in the city full time, meaning the Public Health team were keen to launch a proactive campaign.

As well as the social media campaign #SugarSmartCity there will be more food and nutrition taught in cities primary schools. A quick look at the hashtag shows lots of schools, colleges and front line services getting directly involved and launching their own activities to support the campaign. There’s also an option for the general public to ask questions about their sugar consumption and connect with health professionals.

This is a great and proactive way of using social media to create a buzz around a major social issue when Councils are naturally unable to compete budget wise with the industry they are challenging. The use of social media to run this campaign has also been successful in recruiting and engaging young people with the launch of the ‘Youth Council Debate’ where young people come together with health professionals, teachers, parents and GP’s to debate on the issues in an open environment.

Brighton and Hove hope that #SugarSmartCity will form a blueprint for other local authorities to follow. Hopefully this innovative, new way of working will transfer to other areas Councils tackle to help communicate and engage with their communities on a wider level.