Education

How to combat chilhood obesity with hydration stations

Healthy Active Arkansas encourages kids to rethink their drinks.

waterstation

Photo: goodnet.org

Choosing water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks helps kids in a variety of way. Drinking enough water, according to Healthy Active Arkansas, increases energy levels, cognitive function so kids are ready to learn, better health, and is the best way to fight childhood obesity.

This program is vitally important because Arkansas has a higher than average obesity rate with 31 percent of adults and 21 percent of children from grades K-10 being significantly overweight according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, a nonpartisan independent health policy center.

Healthy Active Arkansas (HAA), who is running the Rethink Your Drink: Choose Water program has only one single overarching goal, to increase the percentage of children, adolescents and adults who are at healthy weight. The organization represents a team of public and private sector health care providers and community organizations that work together to create a culture of healthy eating and exercise in Arkansas.

Changing the old culture of bad habits is no easy task. That's HAA is starting with school-aged children and starting with something as basic as drinking water. School-age children need to drink at least five cups of water a day. Pre-teens need seven cups and teenagers eight to ten.

Last year, HAA partnered with the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation committed $30,000 to put 30 hydration systems – water bottle filling stations – in Arkansas schools as part of the Rethink Your Drink: Choose Water Campaign to encourage students to replace sugary drinks with cold drinking water.

The schools were chosen through a competitive application process, four were located in Northwest Arkansas. All of the hydration stations were installed before the start of this school year.

One of the schools that received a water hydration system is the Elkins Elementary School in the in Northwest Arkansas. The obesity rate for children in Washington county where the district is located serves is hovering at 31 percent, Deven Daehn from the American Heart Association said in a KNWA news report. That is higher than the Arkansas average which is already higher than the national average.

"If you were to fill a school bus almost 500 times with students, that'd be about four miles of school buses lined up," Daehn explained. "That would be the number of overweight and obese students that we have living, just in Northwest Arkansas."

The Elkins School-based health Center coordinator stressed how important proper hydration is in keeping the kids healthier and more active in school and at home. The water filling stations promote water hydration because children who fill up a water bottle drink much more than when they just take a drink from a water fountain.

The hydration station appears to be a big hit with the students. "If I go out in the hallway to do something, I actually most of the time I'll see someone filling up their water bottle," Haley, a fifth-grader said.

"Since our bodies are made up of at least 70 percent water, an average child needs to have about 64 ounces of water per day," said fifth-grader Nate.

Cutting out the empty calories of sugary drinks is a great start to a healthier and a lighter-weight Arkansas.

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