What is the problem?
Children and adolescents in Australia consume sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) frequently, despite them being associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Consumption also leads to a reduced intake of other important nutrients, such as calcium (found in milk).
There is clear evidence that a reduction in SSBs (soft drinks, cordials and sports drinks) reduces weight gain, particularly in those who are already overweight. Increasing water intake has also been shown to decrease the incidence of overweight and obesity in children.
Childhood obesity is a serious public health challenge in Australia, with approximately one in four children aged 5-17 years being overweight or obese.
Given adolescents are high consumers of SSBs, a significant reduction in these types of drinks, and an increased consumption of water, should help reduce and prevent overweight and obesity in this population group.
About the research translation program
The project was conducted with Year 7 students in approximately 24 regional schools from Hunter New England and Mid North Coast Local Health Districts.
Schools were assigned to one of four groups: 1) chilled water stations; 2) behavioural intervention; 3) water stations and behavioural intervention; or 4) no intervention at all.
Year 7 students in schools receiving chilled water stations had easy and free access to chilled water at school. Students receiving the behavioural intervention received education and promotion of the benefits of drinking water.
The project aimed to determine which (if any) strategy increased water consumption and effected change in the attitudes of Year 7 students.
Students were surveyed throughout the project and regular water meter readings were taken from the chilled water stations.
What were the findings?
Thirsty? Choose Water! was successfully implemented in 24 regional schools.
All aspects of the intervention were delivered as intended, except for a small number of schools that delivered the behavioural intervention online due to the impacts of COVID-19 on remote learning.
A multivariable ordinal logistic regression demonstrated that either singularly or combined, the two interventions were associated with increased weekly plain water consumption. However this was not statistically significant.
The greatest effect was seen in the combined group with the odds of higher plain water consumption increasing by 32%.
Either singularly or combined, the two interventions were significantly associated with decreased weekly SSB consumption, with the odds of higher SSB consumption decreasing by 25%.