First 5 LA Launches Campaign to Help Young Children Kick the Soda and Sugary Drink Habit This SummerJuly 19, 2011
| Los Angeles--Research shows that even very young children are consuming alarming amounts of sugar. Each day in Los Angeles County, nearly 30 percent of children ages 0-5 are drinking at least one soda or other sweetened beverage and increasingly, the obesity epidemic is pointing to sugary drinks as a prime source of added calories. To encourage drinking water rather than sugary drinks, First 5 LA is launching a Rethink Your Drink campaign, targeting families with young children 5 years and under.
In L.A. County about 22 percent of 4 year-olds are overweight and statistics show that an average 4-5 year old eats-or drinks-almost 65 lbs. of added sugar a year, that's more than their body weight. And the single biggest source of added sugar in a child's diet comes from sugar-saturated beverages like sodas, fruit juices and punches as well as sports drinks. Children are consuming far more calories from sugar-sweetened drinks now than they did 30 years ago, and consumption of sugary drinks is strongly correlated with their weight gain.
Because childhood obesity frequently leads to adult obesity and can cause serious health problems, First 5 LA is making public outreach on the dangers of sugary beverages a priority. Directly related health problems include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, as well as sleep apnea, asthma, joint problems, unhealthy livers and gallstones.
"Our children's healthy development should be our highest priority," said Evelyn V. Martinez, chief executive officer of First 5 LA. "When parents give their young children the option to regularly choose beverages with added sugar such as sugary juice pouches or soda pop instead of water, they are putting them at risk for obesity and cavities."
First 5 LA supports early childhood obesity prevention through community partnerships and advocacy efforts that emphasize the importance of healthy eating and regular physical activity. And it has found no shortage of supportive partners for its campaign.
Working with the regional office of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), and other advocates, First 5 LA will release a policy brief to coincide with the Rethink Your Drink summer campaign. According to Martinez, spreading the word about the detrimental health effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on young kids is a first, powerful step that child advocates can take to combat childhood obesity.
Highlighting the advocacy effort in the Rethink Your Drink campaign, the CCPHA, along with the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation worked with community members in getting the cities of South El Monte and El Monte to adopt groundbreaking new food and beverage policies. The policies require that food and beverages in all vending machines in city facilities and institutions, including afterschool programs, recreation centers, pools, libraries, parks, community centers and childcare centers meet certain standards. The policy for both cities emphasizes foods that are lower in fat, sugar and calories, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Now through August, First 5 LA is also coordinating with the Public Health Foundation Enterprises Women, Infants and Children Program (PHFH WIC) to fund the printing of 150,000 co-branded books to be distributed at PHFH WIC centers. The free, bilingual book, "Potter the Otter: A Tale About Water," includes fun activities to reinforce the sugar-free messaging, and will be a highlight of the Rethink Your Drink Campaign featuring several local appearances by Potter the Otter.
The book, created by First 5 Santa Clara and distributed through First 5 commissions across the state, is being used to help parents and their youngsters decrease drinking sweetened beverages and increase water consumption.
Targeting 14 communities in L.A. County, First 5 LA's Best Start effort will also sponsor a series of events encouraging families with young children to drink water, eat healthier and exercise more frequently. Best Start, is working with parents, service providers and other stakeholders in order to make their neighborhoods places where young children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. For more information about the Rethink Your Drink campaign activities visit the Rethink Your Drink web page at www.ReadySetGrowLA.org/RethinkYourDrink.
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