Printer Friendly Format Share

PR- 116-13
March 28, 2013


National Alliance for Hispanic Health and National Association of Local Boards of Health Are Lead Signatories, 30 Community Groups and Minority Organizations Signed On

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley announced today that two amicus (friend of the court) legal briefs have been filed to support the City’s appeal of the lower court denial of the sugary drink portion cap rule. The lead signatories of the two brief are National Alliance for Hispanic Health and National Association of Local Boards of Health and they are joined by 30diverse organizations and health experts, including Comunilife, Montefiore Medical Center, Harlem Health Promotion Center, National Congress of Black Women, Inc., New York Chapter, ChangeLab Solutions, Rudd Center, Public Health Association of New York City and Public Health Law Center. The amicus brief supports the Board of Health regulation limiting sugary beverage portions to containers no more than 16 ounces at food service establishments in New York City. The Board of Health adopted the regulation in September as part of an effort to curb obesity rates. Obesity-related illness kills more than 5,000 New Yorkers every year.

“The organizations and individuals who have joined these amicus briefs understand the toll that obesity is taking on communities here in New York City and across the nation," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Sugary drinks are a leading contributor to the obesity epidemic that is hitting low-income communities especially hard, and we cannot afford to pretend otherwise.  Our plan to limit the portion size of sugary drinks is a sensible step that has won increasing levels of support from the public health community, and these two amicus briefs will help us make our case to the court.”

“The health consequences of obesity are dire, leading to diabetes, cancer and loss of life,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “The real fear that today’s youth may be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents is a call to action.”

“Sixteen ounces of a sugary beverage used to be considered enough for three people. Portion sizes have ballooned over the years, causing our waistlines to balloon as well as driving an epidemic of diabetes that now affects over a half million New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “Sugary drinks have no nutritional value and they do not make you feel full. The portion size cap is necessary to help reduce sugary drink consumption – a key driver of the obesity epidemic.”

“The compelling amicus briefs being submitted today further confirm the significant support this important health initiative has among the medical community as well as the community at large,” said Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo of the New York City Law Department. “We believe that the appellate court will find that the Board of Health’s authority to adopt initiatives such as the portion cap rule for the protection of the health of New Yorkers is supported by decades of case law and explicit text in the New York City Charter. It will allow consumers to make conscious and informed choices about large sugary drinks.”

The first amicus brief focuses on scientific evidence showing a strong correlation between sugary drink consumption and obesity and chronic diseases, with a focus on the disproportionate impact to underserved communities. The following groups will file the brief: National Alliance for Hispanic Health (lead signatory), Comunilife, Montefiore Medical Center, Harlem Health Promotion Center, National Congress of Black Women, Inc., New York Chapter, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Association of Black Cardiologists, The California Endowment, New York Chapter 2, American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevention Institute, Shape Up America!, United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE), Walter Willett, MD, MPH, DrPH, Maya Rockeymoore, PhD, Children’s Aid Society, and the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The obesity epidemic hits hardest in communities already suffering from health and economic disparities, particularly black, Latino and low-income neighborhoods. Black New Yorkers are almost three times as likely as whites to die from diabetes. Hispanics are twice as likely to die from diabetes as whites.

Despite recent progress with childhood obesity, roughly 20 percent of New York City public school children are obese and another 20 percent are overweight. Here too obesity rates are higher among minorities – twice as many Hispanic children are obese than white children (23.5 percent vs. 12.3 percent).

The second amicus brief demonstrates the legality and appropriateness of incremental approaches to public health that local boards of health have made. The second brief will be filed by: the National Association of Local Boards of Health (lead signatory), ChangeLab Solutions, Rudd Center, Public Health Association of New York City, Public Health Law Center, Health Officers Association of California, National Association of County and City Health Officials, American Public Health Association, the University of Michigan School of Public Health Professor Peter Jacobson, Georgetown Law Professor Larry Gostin, American University Washington College of Law, Northeastern University School of Law Professor Wendy Parmet, Wayne State University Law School Professor Lance Gable and New England Law School Professor Micah Berman..

Over the last 200 years, the New York City Board of Health has made decisions on a variety of public health concerns, from responding to cholera and other diseases caused by poor sanitary conditions, to addressing the burden of chronic disease. Some of the diverse and significant measures the Board has implemented include: banning lead paint in residential buildings, establishing stronger requirements for physical activity and nutrition in the City’s day care centers, requiring window guards in apartments inhabited by young children, requiring posting of calorie counts in chain restaurants, and banning trans fat in restaurants.

“It’s time to say enough! (¡basta!) and put community and children’s health first,” said Dr. Jane L. Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

“Studies show that just like adults, children consume more when portion sizes are large,” said Barbara Moore, President and CEO of Shape Up America!  “Shape Up America! is aware that we all serve as role models for children. Supporting this amicus brief boils down to showing children we care by setting reasonable limits on portions.”

“The world has changed and so have the health risks that face us. The big threats are no longer infectious diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis,” said Larry Cohen, Executive Director of Prevention Institute. “We’ve learned to manage those in part because health authorities gained the tools and authority to control them. Today’s health problems are largely chronic diseases that stem from the things people eat, drink and smoke, the air they breathe, the physical activity they do or don’t engage in, and the products companies are permitted to market. If we really want to protect people’s health, we need rules that check the might of companies and their ability to purvey unhealthy products. New York City’s soda cap did just that and the future health of New Yorkers depends on such measures.”

“The growing health disparities among Latino children requires radical and immediate solutions - we don't like our behavior regulated, but we support this measure for the love of our children,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE).

“Montefiore Medical Center continues to stand firmly in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the size of sugary drinks to better the health of all New Yorkers,” said Steven M. Safyer, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Montefiore Medical Center. “Multiple bold steps are needed to curb the obesity epidemic and put an end to this national health crisis which imperils the health of our city and the future of our children.”

“Public officials are charged with protecting everyone's health and welfare, and New York City is taking a perfectly appropriate step to meet that obligation,” said Marice Ashe, JD, MPH, Founder and CEO, ChangeLab Solutions. “Almost six in 10 New York City residents are overweight or obese and one in eight reports having diabetes — reversing the obesity epidemic requires a wide variety of policies that make it easier for everyone to choose healthier options. No one can do this alone. Downsizing the typical serving size of sugary drinks is one way to change the unhealthy environment that shapes behaviors.”

“One thing is for certain, if we’re going to successfully beat back the daunting epidemic of childhood obesity, we will need bold and principled leadership,” said Anthony Iton, MD, Senior Vice President at the California Endowment. “In the David and Goliath battle against Big Soda, just like in the triumph over Big Tobacco, those who care about protecting the health of children against an industry bent on profiting at all costs will need to use a comprehensive array of tools. That’s what New York has done here. We’ll be a healthier nation if other leaders follow suit.”

The City’s application to hear the appeal on an expedited briefing schedule was granted and arguments will be heard in June.


Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Sam Miller/Veronica Lewin (Health)   (347) 396-4177


TwitterTwitter   TwitterYouTube   FlickrFlickr
More Resources