Access to safe drinking water was highlighted as an important strategy for reducing sugary drink consumption among children aged 0-5 when experts convened at a recent workshop hosted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).
Christina Hecht, of the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), spoke to colleagues about key steps to increasing water consumption for young children. NPI serves as the hub for the National Drinking Water Alliance.
Because children younger than seven are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, and other contaminants, Hecht explained that an initial step in water promotion is to consider safety. She noted that while most communities have safe tap water, not all do. Even though most water utilities provide safe water, lead can leach into tap water from lead service lines and premise plumbing. Hecht described provisions for testing for lead in tap water in licensed child care centers, which presently exist in only a handful of states. A barrier to performing water testing is the fear of the cost of remedying any issue that is found.
Availability also plays a role in water consumption patterns. Hecht described studies in which improving water access and offering beverage selection education in the school setting increased water intake among students, but added that little research has been done in the child care setting to date. Hecht outlined beverage standards for child care programs operating under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), noting that effective October 1, 2017, “water must be offered throughout the day with visual cues.”
In considering the current status of beverage intake among young children, Hecht said parents and caregivers are looking for clear guidance on what, how, and how much children should be drinking.
To learn more, click for the workshop proceedings.