New Mural in East Harlem Encourages New Yorkers to Drink Water Instead of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

In 2016, 3 of 10 adult residents of East Harlem consumed one or more sugary drinks per day

One 20-ounce sugary drink can contain more added sugar than the recommended limit for an entire day

Mural in East Harlem
“Sugar Monkey” by Jaime Escalante. Painting, 50 x 70 inches.“This is what happened to me, when I was drinking – I had a monkey on my back. The advice in this show about sugar, and other addictions, is for everyone in recovery. Recovery is a wonderful thing,” said Jamie E., artist.
August 7, 2018 – The Health Department today announced a new mural and art exhibit in East Harlem encouraging New Yorkers to drink water instead of sugary-sweetened beverages.

 Odyssey House, a behavioral health care organization, worked with clients in recovery from substance use and mental health disorders to create the artworks. The “Drink Water” mural is located on Odyssey House’s fence on 121st street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in East Harlem, and an art exhibition is inside the building at 239 E.121st street. Sugary drinks are beverages with added sugars and have little to no nutritional value. They include soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit punch and other fruit-flavored drinks. From 2015 to 2016, 3 of 10 adult residents (29.4 percent) of East Harlem reported consuming one or more sugary drinks per day. In 2015, Latino and Black children ages 0-5 had three to four times higher rates of sugary drink consumption than White children.

Mural in East Harlem

“Sugary drinks have no place in our diets. They can lead to serious and preventable health problems, like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We are excited to have the help of community partners like Odyssey House to raise awareness about the harms of sugary drinks in creative and impactful ways.”

“Being healthy in recovery is a key goal at Odyssey House. Using art to reach out to our treatment community, and neighbors in East Harlem, is one of the ways we encourage people to think about the choices and changes they can make every day to live healthier,” said Peter Provet, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Odyssey House.

Beverages are the largest single source of added sugar in the diets of U.S. children and adults, contributing to over 45 percent of daily added sugar intake. One 20-ounce sugary drink can contain more added sugar than the recommended limit for an entire day. These beverages are calorie-dense and often contain few or no nutrients. They are also heavily marketed to youth, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Recommendations

Mural in East Harlem
  • All New Yorkers should avoid sugary drinks.
  • Do not give sugary drinks to children.
  • Drink water or seltzer, and add fruits, vegetables or herbs for flavor. New York City tap water is healthy, tasty and free.
  • Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juice.
  • Ask for coffee and tea with no sugar.

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CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle (347) 396-4177
pressoffice@health.nyc.gov