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Grassroots action on kids’ health sweet as!

Grassroots action on kids' health sweet as!

I was heartened last week to read a great story about two Taranaki dairies that have decided not to sell sugar-sweetened beverages to kids before school.

Northern Dairy and CR Dairy will stop selling sugary drinks before 9am.  This is to support the Taranaki Public Health Unit’s ‘Tap into Water’ project to get kids switching to water to help combat obesity, dental caries and chronic illnesses.

The move has been praised by dentists and health organisations. New Zealand Dental Association spokesperson Rob Beaglehole says, in a media release, the move is in line with recommendations in a recent Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks by a consortium of public health groups.

“We support this public health leadership. In fact, point six of our statement specifically mentions the need to limit the sale of sugary drinks in and around schools,” Dr Beaglehole says.

With 11 per cent of Kiwi children obese and a further 21 per cent overweight, we need to act fast.  Our health system can’t afford it and our kids deserve a quality of life they won’t get if these statistics don’t improve.

We also need to do act on improving their dental health.  The 2014/15 annual New Zealand Health Survey, reported that 29,000 children under the age of 14 years had teeth removed due to decay, an abscess, infection or gum disease in the preceding 12 months.  And dental treatment is recorded as being the main reason for hospital admission in children age 8 and under.

We can sit around waiting for the Government to do something about the problem or we can start working at it ourselves.

When private individuals, like these Taranaki dairy owners, decide to do their bit to help the kids in their community a difference is made immediately, no red tape, no lengthy process – just mucking in to get the job done.

I hope this idea will spread.  I know of several dairies doing a similar thing in Hamilton by not selling sweets and sugary drinks to kids in school uniform.

If I’m ever in Hamilton or Taranaki I’ll reward those retailers with my business.  After all, they care enough for the kids in our communities to risk a profit loss.

First published: Mar 2017

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