PHILADELPHIA. Fifteen health organizations file in Philadelphia’s sugary drink tax (AHA News)

Fifteen health organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in hopes that the beverage industry’s appeal of a sugar tax will fall flat.

Philadelphia’s 1.5-cent-an-ounce tax on sweetened drinks survived a major challenge in December from the beverage industry, after a city judge dismissed the group’s lawsuit. The beverage industry filed an appeal last month.

The health groups’ brief was filed by the Public Health Law Center on behalf of the American Heart Association and 14 leading public health and medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The science-based filing outlines support for taxing sugary drinks in Philadelphia, which has some of the highest rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity among large cities.

While the tax is said to have a public health impact through reduced consumption, the AHA says the revenue raised by the tax will be used in a way that has a significant impact.

The tax will be levied on distributors, not consumers. It is expected to bring in about $91 million annually, which the city plans to use to expand pre-kindergarten programs, improve parks and offer tax credits for businesses that sell healthy beverages. Read more

PHILADELPHIA. Philly beverage tax is working (Philadelphia Inquirer)

By Thomas A. Farley

In the publicity about the first month's revenue from the Philadelphia beverage tax and the howls from the soda industry, the key point has been missing: The tax is working.

Children are getting educated in prekindergarten. The city is taking the first steps toward a massive rebuilding of parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Nine community schools are helping students and their families. The city is meeting its revenue projections, and the soda industry says sugary drinks sales have declined.

Mayor Kenney predicted that all of these things would happen. And opponents, at one time or another, claimed that none of them would.

The primary goal of the beverage tax was to pay for these investments in our city's children, families, and neighborhoods. And a secondary goal was to do it in a way that battled back the city's still-growing twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

Critics said that you couldn't do both. If people stopped drinking soda, they said, the city wouldn't have sufficient revenue for its programs or, alternatively, if revenue came in at projections, then people weren't significantly reducing their soda consumption.

But with the city's first revenue collections on track to meet annual projections and soda sellers reporting declines, the industry's predictions have been proved wrong, and so they are now shifting to fear mongering on job loss. Read more.

BOSTON. Here’s How Healthy Boston Is, Compared to 27 Other Cities (Boston Magazine)

A new data platform offers a window into public health nationwide.

By Jamie Ducharme

You already know Boston is a healthy city. But have you ever wondered how it stacks up against, say, New York or Las Vegas?

A new data platform from the Big Cities Health Coalition lets you see for yourself. The Big Cities Health Inventory Data Platform 2.0 has sorted 17,000 data points into an interactive platform that allows viewers to explore 50 public health indicators in 28 of the country’s largest cities.

So, does Boston hold its own? It depends where you look.

On the bright side, Boston has*:

  • The third-lowest adult obesity rate, at 21.7 percent of residents
  • One of the nation’s lowest heart disease mortality rates, at 133.6 deaths per 100,000 people
  • A very low HIV-related mortality rate, at 2.9 deaths per 100,000 residents
  • One of the country’s highest life expectancies, at 80.2 years
  • The third-lowest percentage (4.1 percent) of mothers under the age of 20

On the not-so-bright side, Boston has*:

  • The highest opioid overdose rate of any city
  • A shockingly low percentage (24.2 percent) of adult residents meeting physical activity guidelines, despite our vibrant fitness community
  • The third-highest percentage (25.4 percent) of adults who binge drink
  • A high rate of salmonella infections

The database touches on numerous other public health indicators, from environmental health to poverty rates. If your curiosity has been piqued, you can play with the platform here.

Read more.

PHILADELPHIA. Philly Wants To Tax Soda To Raise Money For Schools (National Public Radio)

Philadelphia's new mayor wants to do something few American cities have done: pass a tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

So far, Berkeley, Calif., has been the only U.S. city to approve such a tax. That measure was aimed at reducing soda consumption (and the negative health effects that go along with drinking too much of it).

But in Philly, the tax isn't being promoted as a scheme to bring down the city's high rates of obesity or diabetes. Mayor Jim Kenney says he wants to use the revenue for projects that benefit residents in a city with a 26 percent poverty rate, the highest of America's largest cities. He argues soda companies make big money and often market their products to low-income people.

"What we're looking to do is to take some of that profit, to put it back into the neighborhoods that have been their biggest customers, to improve the lives and opportunities for the people who live there," he said at a rally promoting the tax last month.

Read more.