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Water Consumption in Schools Could Decrease Children’s Weight

Feb 20, 2016

Water dispenser study examined whether availability of water would reduce soda consumption, obesity rates.

Throughout cafeterias around the globe in elementary and middle schools, children have been gravitating to sugary and high caloric beverages over the years.  A recent discovery has shown that replacing these drinks can decrease obesity and help direct kids to making healthier choices in regards to diet.  The New York City school district jumpstarted this campaign by installing water dispensers in the cafeterias.  Researchers then conducted a study to determine if children’s BMIs would significantly decrease.


Between the years 2008 to 2009 and 2012 to 2013, 1,227 New York schools participated in a quasi-experimental study. Over 1 million students were observed within the total number of schools. Children’s BMIs were calculated using New York’s FITNESSGRAM initiative and age/sex specific growth charts from the US CDC.  Students were assessed before and after the installation of the water dispenser.

Of the assessed, girls exhibited a 0.022 percent reduction in BMI, while boys exhibited a 0.025 percent reduction, both with confidence intervals of 95%.  As far as reducing students’ weight,  boys had a 0.9% reduction in being overweight, and girls had a 0.6% overweight reduction. In addition to weight reductions, with the addition of water jets, milk purchases also declined by 12.3 percent.  These results are all in comparison to schools without the installation of water dispensers.

Although the numbers are small, Brian Elbel, an author of the study, told Medpage Today that the results of the school water dispenser study were meaningful due to the fact that about 40% of school children are overweight. Some might say the decrease in milk consumption could be the driving force behind the weight reduction.

This study can back up a claim by Dr. Lindsey Turner and Dr. Erin Hager who both made the declaration to add water to school cafeterias. These two researchers conducted a systematic review in 2013 on the effects of adding water, but more research was needed to solidify these claims.  Due to the demanding cost of upkeep on water dispensers, as well as materials used, some school districts might not have the money to place fountains back into the lunchrooms. Turner stated that there was a $1,000 per unit cost with the dispensers, but in comparison to disease state management this route could save money in the long run.

Practice Pearls:

  • Childhood obesity increases the risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese children are more likely to develop prediabetes, which then progresses to type 2 diabetes.

Researched and prepared by Javeria Fayyaz, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate LECOM  College of  Pharmacy, reviewed by Dave Joffe, BSPharm, CDE

Turner, Lindsey, and Erin Hager. “The Power Of A Simple Intervention To Improve Student Health”. JAMA Pediatrics (2016): 1. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.  

Schwartz, Amy Ellen et al. “Effect Of A School-Based Water Intervention On Child Body Mass Index And Obesity”. JAMA Pediatrics (2016): 1. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Cdc.gov,. “Obesity Prevention | Healthy Schools | CDC”. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.