New Bill Could Bolster Health While Curbing Sugary Drink Consumption in Washington, D.C.

Article Submitted by: Terra Hall, Voices for Healthy Kids

Type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure. Tooth decay.. While most physicians are accustomed to treating these chronic illnesses, Yolandra Hancock, MD, was surprised when she began diagnosing these conditions in the patients who came to her practice.

“Imagine a bathtub filled with sugary drinks like sweet tea, fruit drinks with added sugar and soda. That’s the amount of sugary drinks the average child consumes each year. It adds up to about 30 gallons,” explained the doctor.

Hancock, an American Heart Association volunteer and You’re the Cure advocate who works as a pediatrician in Washington, D.C. and neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland, said she has started treating elementary school-aged patients with weight-related diseases that used to only affect adults. That’s why she, alongside community members and lawmakers in the District, are backing a bill that would make nutrition a priority and more equitable.

“It is our collective responsibility as community leaders to support legislation that creates a space for equitable access to healthy foods and funding those efforts are critical at all times but particularly coming out of a pandemic,” said Hancock. “There is no time like the present and no better legislation than the Nutrition Equity Act to ensure and fund equitable food access.”

The Nutrition Equity Act is a community-led solution to improve the health and wellbeing of those who live, work, play or visit the District, particularly under-resourced communities like Wards 8, 7 and 5.. The legislation would support our most vulnerable residents by improving the nutritional content and quality of food served at the District’s homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities.

In addition, the policy would establish grants to support nutrition education, cooking lessons, gardens and play structures at schools, community centers, family shelters and transitional housing facilities. It would fund essential interventions like food as medicine. Supporters say this legislation takes important steps toward providing more equitable access to healthy environments and nutritious food for all District residents, in all 8 wards.

“Our lowest income neighborhoods have the most limited access to healthy drinks and full-service grocery options,” said Federico Asch, MD, a cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region Board of Directors. “We have a huge problem where, for example, many kids are drinking more than seven times the maximum amount of sugar recommended by American Heart Association. This is unacceptable and we must support the Nutrition Equity Act to provide better opportunities for all in D.C. to live better, longer, healthier lives.”

The Nutrition Equity Act creates revenue for these health equity programs in the District through an excise tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on of sugary drinks, like sports drinks, energy drinks, and soda. This price increase on the shelf can influence buying patterns by encouraging shoppers to reach for healthier and less expensive drinks, like water.

“We want to not only reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, but also encourage the beverage industry to produce and promote healthier options,” Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said. “Similar excise taxes, like those passed in Philadelphia and Seattle, have proven to reduce sales and consumption of sugary drinks.”

Councilmembers Nadeau, Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Elissa Silverman, and Chairman Mendelson introduced the bill on March 29, 2021. Supporters are gearing up to show their support for this policy and the nutrition equity it will create at a hearing in the D.C. Council later this spring.

For more information and to ask your councilmembers to support this policy, visit and follow us at @heartofgwr on Twitter and Instagram and @GreaterWashingtonAHA on Facebook.

Click here to read Councilmember Nadeau’s press release: