New Zealand Dental Association calls on government to remove all sugary drinks in schools

21 June 2017 Sugar

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) and Hāpai Te Hauora, a Māori public health organization based in Auckland, are calling on Education Minister Nikki Kaye to back ‘water only’ schools. NZDA dentists have been supporting schools to become ‘water only’ environments since June 2016.

Sugary drinks are the main source of sugars consumed by children and young people in New Zealand. Their consumption provides no nutritional value and significantly increases the risk of dental caries, which is a major problem nationwide. The 2014/15 annual health survey, reported that 29,000 children under the age of 14 had teeth removed over the last 12 months due to decay, abscess, infection or gum disease. In March 2016, the Ministries of Health and Education publicly encouraged schools to consider adopting healthy drink policies and provide students with water and milk only.

One school sets the example, more are encouraged to follow

Last month during Men’s Health Week (12–18 June), Kelston Boys’ High School in Auckland organized a 3.1 km 'Walk for Water' to reduce sugar intake in students. The walkathon brought together staff, students, families and community members to raise funds for a customized water fountain.

"We’re calling on the Minister to make water-only a requirement for all schools. Kelston Boys’ is a great example here, but the Minister could step-up and have an impact on the health of all students."
Dr Rob Beaglehole, NZDA spokesperson 

young girl smiling with water bottle

"This is an issue that Hāpai has advocated for within our communities for years. Given their high Māori and Pacific roll, we’re especially pleased to see a school like Kelston Boys’ High leading the way. We hope the Minister takes note and demonstrates leadership in supporting water only schools."
Lance Norman, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora 

NZDA highlights range of actions for sugary drinks

The call to action for government to ban all sugary drinks in schools follows a series of similar initiatives taken by NZDA. In December 2016, the dental association launched a consensus statement to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.

"This is about informing the public about the negative health impacts of sugary drinks, and to advocate for a comprehensive approach to reduce sugary drink consumption."
Dr Rob Beaglehole, NZDA spokesperson 

The NZDA-led 7-point consensus statement, which is endorsed by Hāpai Te Hauora and 12 other public health groups, demands the following actions:

  • Introducing an icon on drinks indicating, in teaspoons, the amount of sugar in each drink
  • Conducting independent regulation of food marketing, especially toward children
  • Urging the government to adopt the WHO guideline on sugars intake
  • Encouraging the public to switch to water
  • Working with schools to adopt ‘water only’ policies
  • Developing ‘water only’ policies by local governments
  • Introducing a ‘sugary drinks’ tax

Curbing the global epidemic of dental caries

FDI remains committed to coordinate action to implement the World Health Organization’s ‘Guideline for sugars intake for adults and children’  through international, national and local food policies; to advocate dental caries prevention strategies focusing on individual- and population-based approaches to reduce free sugars consumption in general, particularly through sugar-sweetened beverages; and to encourage NDAs to introduce dietary guidelines to reduce free sugars in schools, workplaces, hospitals and other institutions.

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