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Push for schools to become water-only

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​Following on from the invitation sent last term by the Ministries of Education and Health for schools to consider becoming water-only, Public Health, MidCentral DHB Oral Health, and the Heart Foundation Manawatū are developing a toolkit to support schools to adopt a water-only policy.

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. According to recent research by the Health Promotion Agency 93 percent of parents/caregivers think it is important for schools to limit access to sugary drinks.

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. This survey has been sent out to all schools in the region and will be closing at the end of this month. 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.

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.

What is a water-only school?
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. Guidelines and procedures around the provision and sale of drinks during school, may also be formalised within the school nutrition policy or within a specific water-only policy.

For schools wanting to adopt a water-only policy, they may wish to include a clause which specifies special circumstances whereby drinks other than water and plain reduced-fat milk may be permitted i.e. pet and lamb day.

If anyone requires further information please do not hesitate to contact one of the development team members: Mariana Alletson, Health Promotion Coordinator, Heart Foundation, telephone (06) 358 7745 or 022 399 8446; Marja Steur, Oral Health Coordinator, MidCentral DHB, telephone (06) 350 8619 ext 9551 or 027 455 5359; or Emma Williams, Health Promoting Schools Advisor, MidCentral DHB, telephone (06) 350 9110.

Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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