In the midst of a growing Latino population in Minneapolis, (10.5% Latino), Shannon Gavin and Alma Galvez saw heavy sugary drink consumption and obesity-related heath issues among children through their work with and in St. Mary’s Health Clinics. In 2013, they partnered with the Minneapolis Health Department to help create and spread a bilingual, culturally relevant citywide campaign to educate community members about the amount of sugar in sugary beverages. The “Rethink your Drink, Every Sip Counts” campaign promotes a sweet message to drink healthier beverages such as water and creates healthy beverage environments in various community settings.
EMERGENCE: Latinos in U.S. and Minnesota Consume More Sugary Drinks
Alma Galvez, a community health worker for St. Mary’s Health Clinics in Minnesota, began to see many pediatric patients at her clinic struggle with obesity and sugary drinks consumption.
Across Minnesota, where one in 20 residents identify as Latino and the Latino population rose 70% from 2000 to 2010, daily consumption of sugary beverages—soda, sports drinks, etc.—is a serious health threat that contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Studies show that about 22% of Latino high-school students have three or more sugary drinks a day. With each extra sugary drink, the risk of becoming an obese adult jumps to 60%.
Younger Latinos could face even greater health risks due to sugary drink consumption.
St Mary’s Health Clinics serves many families of color who are largely uninsured and undocumented, and with less access to education on nutrition, preventive medicine, and healthy living.
Led by coordinator of Family Health Programs, Shannon Gavin, St. Mary’s Health Clinics had already started a healthy eating and exercise program in a low-income, Latino-majority school (83%), Risen Christ Catholic School in 2013. This program used a before school fitness club, pedometer challenges, cooking classes, a school garden, nutrition-related games and contests, and more to help reduce childhood obesity in the school and reach parents, caregivers, and families.
But both Gavin and Galvez wanted to do more to help kids and families learn the dangers of sugary drinks and reduce consumption.
“Due to the growing problem along with the national and international buzz around sugar-sweetened beverages, we thought that it was time to address this issue,” said Vishwarupa Vasani, a Public Health Specialist with MHD.
Could these players work together to reduce consumption of sugary drinks in Minneapolis?
DEVELOPMENT: Engaging Minneapolis Communities in Sugary Drinks Reduction
In the Spring and Summer of 2013, Vasani researched resources, such as the ChangeLab Solutions’ Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook, and identified the importance of community involvement in designing their campaign.
Because awareness raising campaigns are especially effective when paired with supportive environmental change strategies, MHD developed a two-pronged approach that focused on raising awareness at the grassroots level and creating healthy beverage environments in everyday settings where adults and children spend their time.
“We really wanted to do a bottom up approach because we knew that even though nearly all folks consume sugary drinks, low-income communities, and communities of color are more likely to regularly consume more sugary drinks for a variety of reasons and are at a higher risk for obesity and related chronic diseases,” Vasani said.
The racial and ethnic disparities in sugary drinks consumption demonstrated the need to encourage healthier beverage choices in specific populations using culturally-specific educational strategies and improvements in the availability of healthier beverages in various settings through institutional-level policy and practice changes. As a result, in Fall 2013, the new campaign partnered with five community-based organizations to implement the two-part campaign in their respective communities.
Specifically, MHD partnered with St. Mary’s Health Clinics to reach the Latino community in a culturally relevant manner.
Enactment: Creating an Effective Bilingual Campaign
MHD convened its new partners to form the Healthier Beverage Leadership Team, which included Gavin from St. Mary’s Health Clinics. Together they researched existing campaigns, decided on Minneapolis-specific campaign messaging, and developed related promotional materials such as posters that could be translated and tailored to fit individual community needs.
In the end, they settled on ReThink Your Drink, Every Sip Counts!
“We didn’t want to recreate the wheel and the message that we landed on was ReThink Your Drink because it had this element of choice and a lot of other cities and states have successfully used that messaging as well,” Vasani said.
To effectively reach the Latino community, Gavin, and her team translated this tagline into Spanish, which read “Sabes lo que bebes? Piénsalo dos veces!” (Do you know what you are drinking? Think twice!), before beginning implementation of the following two campaign activities:
- Conduct awareness raising activities to educate their community about sugary drinks and healthier alternatives; and
- Pursue institutional-level policy and practice changes to increase the availability of healthier beverages, decrease the availability of sugary drinks, and ultimately create healthy beverage environments in their community.
Part of the plan was to have Galvin and Galvez talk to peers and patients about health risks of sugary drinks and educate the Latino communities about healthier options.
“They have a better know-how of what works and what doesn’t work,” Vasani said. “We created the framework of the campaign with the two components, and then we let them tailor it and adopt it in a way that would be the most successful for their communities.”
The idea was to not only teach adults and children to think about what they drink when it comes to calories, sugar, and health but also to help change environments to make healthier options increasingly available and the easy choice.
Visibility of the campaign was also a vital part of the campaign plan, so MHD also planned to engage youth to create youth ambassadors and change-makers, and integrate campaign messaging into schools, clinics, and parks, to name a few.
In October 2014, Galvez and Gavin made their first presentation for the staff of partner organizations including the Mexican Consulate, the Ecuadorian Consulate, St. Mary’s Health Clinics’ Park Ave Clinic, Risen Christ School, Centro Tyrone Guzman and Centro Guadalupano of Holy Rosary Church.
Implementation: The Continued Growth of “ReThink Your Drink”
Galvez, Gavin, and others set up tables at community events and present mini-educational campaign lessons in local fitness clubs, school parent’s nights, health fairs, and more. In addition, they implement challenges such as “Semana Sin Soda” to help people set and achieve goals in drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks.
“We’re working with our Minnesota parks and recreation board, we’re working at the city level as well so we’re able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk,” Vasani said.
To create healthy beverage environments, Gavin has worked with Risen Christ School and other community-based organizations to adopt a healthy beverage policy with respect to beverages served and/or sold.
So far, Gavin and Galvez’s work has reached approximately 2,800 children, adults, elders, and caregivers.
Across the board, people are getting the message, Galvez said.
“People don’t want you to tell them to stop drinking soda. But when you show them how much sugar is in their 20 oz. bottled soda they get really impressed by how much sugar is in their soda, and they always want to know how to stop, because sometimes it is not easy for them to stop,” Galvez explained. “So we do compromises with them on how much soda vs. water they drink and many of them are going back to water.”
“This successful engagement with and support from a variety of cultural communities will pave the way for broader City and State-level work.” Vasani said, “We will have that [community] buy in because we made this issue relevant for all people and places.”
In the meantime, Galvez and Gavin are coaching and training others to keep the campaigns going in the organizations and communities they work with, including St. Mary’s Health Clinics, The Consulate of Mexico and of Ecuador, Centro Guadalupano of Holy Rosary Church, Centro Tyrone Guzman, Iglesia Catolica San Cirilo y Metodio, and Incarnation/Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Catholic Church.
This campaign is being implemented in the African American, Native, Hmong, and East African communities as well, Vasani said.
“We’re hoping that we can continue to generate interest and enthusiasm around this topic,” Vasani said.
This project is supported by the Minneapolis Health Department with Statewide Health Improvement Program funding, Minnesota Department of Health.
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program aims to educate researchers, decision-makers, community leaders, and the public in contributing toward healthier Latino communities and seeking environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic of Latino childhood obesity. The network is directed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
For more information, visit http://www.salud-america.org.