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Play Every Day Blog > Posts > State starts new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project to reduce sugary drink consumption


October 04
State starts new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project to reduce sugary drink consumption

HealthyDrinks_ServeWaterOrMilk_sm.pngWhen you drink a soda, the large amount of sugar hiding inside can start doing its damage right away in the mouth.

Soda, sports drinks, powdered mixes and other sugary drinks can lead to cavities in teeth. They can cause unhealthy weight gain in the body and damage to the heart. They can lead to blood vessels carrying too much sugar – a condition known as type-2 diabetes.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) started its Play Every Day sugary drink campaign with a main focus on the connection between sugary drinks and unhealthy weight gain. This fall, department program directors working on Play Every Day and obesity prevention are teaming up with department directors focused on dental health to strive for a similar goal: reduce sugary drink consumption among Alaska families to improve the health of their entire bodies – from their mouths to their waistlines to the health of their hearts and blood vessels.

“The new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project provides a great opportunity for public health and dental professionals to team up to cut sugary drink consumption,” said Karol Fink, manager of the department’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

“The campaign will engage dentists and dental hygienists to educate young Alaska children and their parents during routine dental exams about the large amount of sugar hiding in drinks, why too much sugar is harmful to the health of teeth and general health of the child, and why water and plain white milk are the healthiest drink options,” said Dr. Brad Whistler, manager of the department’s Oral Health Program. “These Alaska families likely won’t forget these important health messages from their dental appointments as Play Every Day will be reinforcing this information in TV Public Service Announcements running in communities across Alaska and in posters in health clinics and in schools.”

This two-year pilot project is being funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve dental health and prevent obesity and other chronic diseases in Alaska. Across the state, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. About 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. During the 2010-11 school year, dentists under contract with the Alaska Oral Health Program examined the teeth of young children in Alaska and found 41% of kindergartners had a filling or an untreated cavity on at least one tooth at the time of the screening. Rates of past or present cavities were even higher in third-graders, with 62% of students having past or present decay on at least one tooth at the time of the screening.

Between now and August 2018, DHSS health program directors will partner with dental providers to reduce sugary drink consumption among their patients, especially families with young children; expand the Play Every Day campaign’s sugary drink prevention efforts; and provide dental and public health clinics with patient educational materials.

Reducing sugary drink consumption in Alaska is essential, given that many Alaskans drink too many sugary beverages, and they’re drinking them every single day. Just one sugary drink — such as one bottle of soda with 16 teaspoons of added sugar — has more added sugar than people should have in one day based on the new sugar limits in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• 42% of Alaska adults and Alaska high school students drink one of more sodas or sugary drinks every day (2013 BRFSS, 2015 YRBS)
• One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and two out of three parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week. (2014 Play Every Day Statewide Telephone Survey)

During the next two years, the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project will offer training to dental clinics and providers to ask their patients about sugary drinks, advise patients to reduce consumption, and assist these patients in coming up with a plan to reduce the sugary drinks in their diets and replace them with water. The project also will build on the recognizable Play Every Day campaign, creating specific educational messages to support the work of dental providers. Play Every Day’s current educational messages focused on reducing sugary drink consumption and promoting water are found online and will be updated when new materials become available.

To learn more about this partnership, visit the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project or contact