Opinion

Water only is a lesson for us all

By John Lewis

Convincing children about the health benefits of drinking water is a brave decision when the temptations for sugary alternatives are so strong.

But when a school introduces a "water only" policy for its students and staff it sends a powerful message to students, adults, and families.

The detrimental health effects of sugar-sweetened drinks have been known for years, yet little has been done from a legislative or social perspective to discourage consumers.

The argument over whether a sugar tax will curb consumption continues, with the Australian Medical Association calling for such a tax on the one hand, while on the other side, industry body the Australian Beverages Council argues that there is no proof a tax will work.

Meanwhile, for many people, the sweet drink is still the first choice when it comes to a thirst quencher.

This is despite a 2017-18 Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey revealing that sugary drinks tend to have little nutritional value and that high and frequent intake of these drinks may lead to tooth decay, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of weight gain in adults and children. 

The same survey found that more than two thirds (67 per cent) of Australians aged 18 and over were overweight or obese, and that 48 per cent of adults consume either sugar-sweetened drinks or diet drinks at least once a week.

So if adults are not showing children how to drink safely, then it must be up to institutions.

We applaud the joint effort by Kialla's St Anne's College and Goulburn Valley Water in encouraging a healthy water-only culture in what must be a challenging environment.

 Supermarket trips and television commercials are powerful persuaders when it comes to diet.

Introducing water-only consumption at junior ages will surely help establish lifelong healthy habits, and also help break the cycle of sugar consumption that it so detrimental to the long-term health of our community.