BWSC Umina Campus students choose water

Students Hannah Stevenson, Lucy Marshall and Nick Albrecht fill up at the school’s chilled water station

Brisbane Water Secondary College Umina Beach Campus is one of 20 schools across the Central Coast to take part in an Australia-first study into the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks by adolescents being spearheaded by Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD).

The Thirsty? Choose Water! Study will examine consumption habits, attitudes, and knowledge of secondary school students regarding water and sugar-sweetened drinks.

All schools involved in the study received educational resources to deliver as part of the curriculum and materials to promote water, chilled water stations installed on site, or both.

College Deputy Principal, Ash Jackson, said the school was very conscious of the number of students who had been consuming sugary drinks and energy drinks on a daily basis.

“This was a concern of ours and that’s why we became involved in the study,” Jackson said.

“We wanted to provide opportunities for our students to hydrate properly throughout the day – and water is the best thing for that.

“We have been increasing the availability of and access to water and the water chilling station has proved a huge success.

“Since its installation we have seen far fewer energy drinks and sugary drinks around the school and large numbers of students are taking advantage of the chilling station during lunch breaks.

“Many are also carrying their own water bottles, which ties in with the school’s recycling program.”

Jackson said educational materials had been delivered to students via the Year Seven PDHD program.

“A large number of our students are very health conscious and keen and eager for information on maintaining healthy lifestyles and staying hydrated throughout the day,” he said.

“Health guidelines recommend eight glasses of water per day and that is what we are encouraging.

“We are also looking to educate students in preventing lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and maintaining a healthy weight range.”

In conjunction with the study, CCLHD will develop a framework for broader community adoption, with resources and toolkits made available to schools and parents, and an educational game launched to further engage young people in water education.

Statistics show that more than half of NSW children aged 12–15 consume sugar-sweetened drinks daily, and more than one in five children aged 5-16 years is above a healthy weight range.

CCLHD Health Promotion Director, Nicole Kajons, said while these figures indicate a worrying trend, the research will help shape strategies to address the issue and promote healthier habits.

“Childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity in Australia is a significant public health issue, and the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, which is particularly high among high school students, is a key contributing factor to this,” she said.

“Evidence also suggests that decreasing consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks can impact positively on childhood weight.

“However, in the Australian context there are limited studies on how this may occur in the secondary school setting.

“The Thirsty? Choose Water! study seeks to establish how effective promotion and education, as well as the installation of chilled water stations, can be in changing adolescents’ habits by getting them to replace their sugary drink with water.”

Terry Collins