South Africans more aware of risks of sugary drinks

Project name:
Baseline and follow-up evaluation of the “Are you drinking yourself sick?” campaign in South Africa

Behavioural Science


Area of Expertise:
Research, evaluation and design

Vital Strategies


South Africa

South Africa has the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 39% of men and 69% of women classified as obese or overweight. Sugary-drink consumption is high and growing in South Africa; we are among the top ten global consumers of soft drinks, and about a third of our added dietary sugars are from sugar-sweetened beverages.

Vital Strategies and Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) identified a need to educate South Africans on the sugar content in sugar-sweetened beverages and the harm of excessive sugar consumption. They launched a campaign, “Are you drinking yourself sick?”, to reduce sugary-drinks consumption and promote support for the sugar tax. 

Genesis Analytics was contracted to do a baseline and follow-up evaluation of the HEALA campaign. The baseline evaluation was conducted in October 2016, before the campaign launch, while the evaluation was conducted in July 2017 after the campaign had been running for almost 10 months. 

Both evaluations comprised samples of 1 000 people aged 18-55 years. Representative household surveys were conducted in the metros and cities of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape. 

We analysed the results from the baseline survey using descriptive analysis to quantify the sociodemographic characteristics, sugary drinks consumption patterns, knowledge and attitudes towards sugary drinks, level of support for advocacy to reduce consumption of sugary drinks, health status as well as recall of messages/ads of sugary drinks. At endline, we performed bivariate and multivariate analysis in STATA to analyse the impact of the campaign on intention and actual reduction in consumption of sugary drinks.

Our evaluation at endline showed an increase (90%) in the identification of sugary drinks as one of the biggest contributes to obesity and there was stronger belief that sugary drinks increase the risk of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure compared to baseline. 

We also found that there was strong support for the government to be involved in reducing the impact of sugary drinks on health which included implementing the sugar tax. The support for the sugar tax increased by 16% since baseline. 

The increased support for the sugar tax campaign was strongly associated with exposure to the campaign, with those who were exposed to the campaign being 37% more likely to support the idea of a sugar tax. 

The findings from the evaluation have been used to inform the implementation of the sugar tax law in South Africa and has demonstrated the importance for policy makers to adopt policies that encourage healthy lifestyles.

Preliminary report: Public attitudes towards sugary drinks and support for government action

Public support for sugary drinks tax is growing

Sugary drinks tax gets green light for National Assembly


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