Promoting healthy beverage consumption habits among elementary school children

Canadian children are consuming high amounts of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). These beverages include regular pop, fruit flavoured drinks, sport drinks, and energy drinks. To help improve the diet quality of children, a movement has emerged to reduce sugar sweetened beverage consumption and replace sugary drinks with water, a calorie- and sugar-free alternative.

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) was an initiative funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). The goal was to create sustainable improvements in children’s well-being. The main focuses of HKCC were healthy eating, physical activity, and lifestyle. The HKCC consisted of programs like, ‘Water Does Wonders’. By providing automatic water bottle filling stations and education, this program aimed to improve children’s water consumption and knowledge.

Authors for this study were Bridget R. Irwin, Mark Speechley, Piotr Wilk, Andrew F. Clark and Jason A. Gilliland. The study examines the how effective the ‘Water Does Wonders’ interventions were at increasing water and decreasing SSB consumption. Students under the age of 12 from London, Ontario were selected as the target population. The Child and Youth Network (CYN) London decided this age group was the priority population. This population represented a total of 78 schools.

This study was a non-randomized controlled trial. Children’s knowledge and beverage consumption were measured before and after the ‘Water Does Wonders’ program. The program occurred during the 2016–2017 school year. Children at intervention schools (n = 521) received both education programs (taught by Growing Chefs or UTRCA [Upper Thames River Conservation Authority]) and water bottle filling stations. Children at control schools (n = 410) received water bottle filling stations only.

Results were analysed using multivariable linear mixed-model ANOVAs. Children who received both education and water bottle filling stations drank more water compared to children who received filling stations only. However, statistically significant results were not found.

This research concludes that the ‘Water Does Wonders’ program had successful features. To get kids to drink more water, they need to learn about it and have access to water bottle filling stations. However, the lack of significant results is likely due to the education interventions not fully aligning with program’s goals.

The researchers express their profound thanks to the students, families, teachers, and principals who participated in the HKCC study. They also thank the research boards from the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board. They gratefully acknowledge the research assistants and volunteers from the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory who aided with data collection and entry for the HKCC project.

Funding was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as part of the City of London’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge, and the Children’s Health Foundation through the Children’s Health Research Institute. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) also provided graduate student funding in the form of a Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS-M).

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Keywords: primary care, geography of health, inequalities, rural areas, senior population

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