New mural in East Harlem encourages New Yorkers to drink water instead of sweetened drinks

The Health Department 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 Second and Third 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 they 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, three 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 to 5 had three to four times higher rates of sugary drink consumption than white children.

“Sugary drinks have no place in our diets,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “They can lead to serious and preventable health problems, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 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,” said Peter Provet, Ph.D., chief executive officer of 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.”

Beverages are the largest single source of added sugar in the diets of U.S. children and adults, contributing to more than 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:

• 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.