Annual Report 2021: Stories of Impact
Dr. Simón Barquera
Nutrition and Health Research Center at the National Institute of Public Health (Mexico)
In 2013, Mexico passed a landmark law to implement a tax on sugary soft drinks. The policy, one of the first of its kind, grew out of compelling data.
With support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, researchers like Dr. Simón Barquera, now director of the Nutrition and Health Research Center at Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health, had spent years gathering strong evidence on the links between sugary beverages and health problems. “We had a lot of experience and a lot of evidence of the damage and the role of soft drinks on the Mexican diet and how this was contributing to obesity, diabetes, and chronic diseases,” he said. Civil society organizations also worked to raise public awareness.
After the law passed, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported a team at the Institute to track the results. “Its impact has been profound,” Dr. Barquera said. Purchases of taxed beverages decreased 5.5 percent in 2014 and 9.7 percent in 2015. The average citizen now drinks five to seven fewer liters of soda per year – reducing the country’s sugar consumption by more than 67,000 tons and saving more than $1.8 billion in health care costs in just five years. “It was an immediate action with good effect,” he said. “When you raise the prices, people consume less.”
In the years since, 34 countries around the world have implemented similar sugary beverage taxes. And Bloomberg Philanthropies has continued to support Dr. Barquera’s important work on other public health challenges, like implementing front-of-packaging warning labels and blocking kid-friendly advertising on junk food.
With the support of Bloomberg, we were able, after maybe four years or five years of work, to get a soda tax approved in Mexico – which was very famous around the world because we were basically the first country to have a specific tax for soft drinks.