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  • National Drinking Water Alliance

New Research: Water First School Drinking Water Intervention Shows Promise in Preventing Overweight



A new study, “Effectiveness of a School Drinking Water Promotion and Access Program for Overweight Prevention,” led by NDWA member Dr. Anisha Patel and in partnership with researchers from the University of California’s Nutrition Policy Institute and the University of California, San Francisco, has found that a school-based intervention to enable and promote tap water consumption can prevent excessive weight gain in 4th grade students.


The randomized, controlled trial analyzed data collected from 1,262 students at 18 low-income, ethnically diverse elementary schools in California. The Water First program included installation of a water dispenser with cups in the cafeteria, two water bottle filling stations in other high-traffic areas of each school, classroom lessons related to healthy beverage choice, and schoolwide water promotion over one school year.


After one year, researchers observed a 3.2 percentage point difference in prevalence of overweight students in intervention versus control schools. While Water First did not affect obesity prevalence, it prevented overweight – an important target for preventing the onset of obesity. National standards set by Healthy People call for a 2.3% reduction in childhood obesity by 2030.


The study is a significant addition to the evidence base on the importance of enabling consumption of plain water given its finding that improving and promoting access to safe and appealing drinking water can prevent weight gain in children.


The study, Effectiveness of a School Drinking Water Promotion and Access Program for Overweight Prevention, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be featured in the September 2023 issue of Pediatrics and was published online on August 7, 2023.


A short video of study findings is available in English and Spanish. Intervention materials are available here.


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