Feb 18, 2016

New Study to Measure Children's Access to Drinking Water in Schools

Access to safe drinking water gives youths an alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages

america's toothfairy, drinking water, schools, study

In collaboration with the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) and the University of California Div. of Agriculture and Natural Resources, America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation is activating youth participants in its #MySmileMatters Youth Movement to aid in a study to assess the state of drinking water in schools.

Funded by the Healthy Eating Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the purpose of the study, Technical vs. Effective Access to Water: A Photo-Evidence Technique to Assess Drinking Water in Schools, is to investigate access to drinking water in schools and develop preliminary recommendations for effective access. The study will measure both “technical" access - the presence of some type of water source - as well as “effective” access, which includes such considerations as the condition, appearance and accessibility of the water source, water flow, water promotion and availability of cups. Drinking water researchers agree that few students will drink from old, poorly maintained drinking fountains and, when they do, they only take a few sips of water. However, studies show that effective access can significantly increase students’ water intake.

Effective access to safe drinking water gives youths a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, the greatest contributor of sugar in children’s diets and among the top sources of calories for U.S. children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If substituted for sugar-sweetened beverages, water consumption also is associated with reduced levels of tooth decay, one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses among children in the U.S.

For this study, 16 high school chapters of HOSA: Future Health Professionals will be chosen to collect photographic evidence of water access in schools. Their findings will provide insight into solutions to the challenge of ensuring all youth have access to drinking water during the school day.

“America’s ToothFairy strongly supports efforts to increase access to safe drinking water for children in school and other childcare settings,” said Fern Ingber, president and CEO of America’s ToothFairy. “We are proud to engage our #MySmileMatters Youth Movement in this important effort to ensure all children have access to drinking water.”