Hutt City Council and Healthy Families Lower Hutt have taken action to make sure our residents can ‘Go the H2O’ when out and about with new water fountains being installed across the Hutt.
So far two high profile community hydration stations have already been installed with a further five planned over the coming months.
In addition to the high-profile fountains, the council has committed to ongoing investment in water fountains as part of the rolling maintance and rejuvenation of parks, gardens and reserves.
Bruce Hodgins, divisional manager for parks and gardens at Hutt City Council says, ‘We want to ensure that park users, in particular children at play, are well hydrated and have ready access to water, so wherever possible water fountains will be included in park upgrades.’
The Pai te Wai/Go the H2O movement encourages people in Lower Hutt to drink more water and fewer sweet drinks where they live, learn, work and play.
Hayley Goodin, Healthy Families Lower Hutt manager says, ‘When we choose water, we’re not drinking sweet drinks which can contribute to obesity and the preventable chronic diseases that are impacting our communities.’
The impact of sweet drinks in Lower Hutt is significant. NZ Health Survey data shows that two out of ten Lower Hutt children had fizzy drink three or more times per week. Hutt Valley District Health Board is experiencing the clinical impact of these sweet drinks. The District Health Board spends over $1 million annually on children (under 12) undergoing dental treatment under general anaesthetic; many of these operations are for severe dental caries and tooth extractions.
When we consider this fact with the insights from Otago University’s KidsCam study which showed children (8-12 years old) in the Wellington region spent more time at food retail outlets than at structured sport and in outdoor recreation locations combined, it becomes clear that free and convenient access to water where our young people spend their time is one step that Councils and communities can take to make water the first and easy choice of drink.
Having free and convenient access to water is critical, but only part of the action needed to turn the tide on our communities’ health.
In the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae, the desire to create a healthier place for our tamariki to grow up in has led to 10 organisations across the community to sign up to Turning the Tide, a social movement to create more health promoting environments. Through leadership from the three primary schools, the local college, medical centre, library, swimming pool, cricket club, Tokelau Hutt Valley Sport and Cultural Association as well as the clubhouse for rangatahi with support from Healthy Families Lower Hutt water is now promoted as the drink of choice. The reach of this movement in Naenae alone is significant with these organisations having approximately 5,000 members not to mention the over 620,000 visits to the Council pool and library each year.
When we combine free and easy access to water with local leadership and promotion of water as the best choice of drink, we will see the tide turn on the health and wellbeing of our tamariki.
Imagine if there was no demand for sweet drinks from our young people because water is the normal and desired drink of choice.