Push for schools to become water-only

The water-only in schools development team: from left: Marja Steur (DHB Oral health promoter) Marian Alleston (Heart Foundation), and Emma Williams (Public Health health promoting schools facilitator)

MidCentral DHB public health, Oral Health, and the Heart Foundation Manawatū are developing a toolkit to support schools to adopt a water-only policy.

MidCentral DHB’s Public Health Unit is conducting a survey with schools to understand how many schools in the region already have a ‘water-only’ policy and how many do not. The survey is also intended to find out how best it can support schools that wish to consider or implement a policy, as well as to learn lessons from schools that have already done so.

Schools that participate will have the chance to go in the draw to win a $100 sports equipment voucher. Following on from the survey results we will be in contact with the schools that wish to be supported to become water-only.

We are also currently seeking feedback from five schools on our toolkit to ensure that it is relevant, simple and practical for schools to work with. The water-only school toolkit has been designed to provide schools with all relevant information, resources and support needed to enable them to successfully adopt a water-only policy.

By adopting a water-only policy, whereby water and plain reduced-fat milk are the only beverages provided at school, schools are taking enormous steps toward improving health and academic outcomes for students.

Sugary drinks are a significant contributor to poor oral health, childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes, all of which are major public health issues. The consumption of sugary drinks is associated with poor diet and nutrition, lower academic achievement and problem behaviours. Consuming healthy food and beverages such as water and plain reduced-fat milk at school will optimize the academic outcomes of students and improve their health and wellbeing.

Schools which have become water and milk only schools have seen immediate benefits to student behaviour and learning. Encouraging students to bring only water to school is a great way to promote water as the best choice of drink for school and to ensure that students keep hydrated throughout the day.

School communities should celebrate and be proud that they are a water-only school as they are helping to create healthy food environments which lead to quality living-healthy lives.

A water-only school is one in which water and plain reduced-fat milk are the only drinks permitted at school. Water-only schools will have either a nutrition or water-only policy in place with procedures to ensure that these drinks are the only ones available at school.

Some schools will also ensure that water and plain reduced-fat milk are the only drinks permitted at events such as sports days and camp and not using drinks other than these for fundraising, celebratory or reward purposes.