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Dental Association urges government to switch off sugar tap in schools

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) is urging Government health and education ministries to agree and implement some simple measures to help improve the oral health of our nation’s adolescents this World Oral Health Day (observed 20 March).

NZDA President Dr Amanda Johnston says the consumption of sugary drinks is a leading cause for dental caries, weight gain and obesity in New Zealand.

“With over a third of our country’s children overweight or obese, and dental disease being the leading cause of preventable hospital admissions for children in New Zealand, some things need to change,” says Dr Johnston.

“Sugary drinks offer no nutritional value but contribute a huge amount of acid and empty calories to the diet, which for too many, lead to unhealthy weight gain and damaged teeth.”

“For example, one 600ml bottle of coke contains 16 teaspoons of sugar. This equates to more than double the total recommended daily intake of refined sugar in just one drink.”

“One simple thing government can do to protect the health of our children, is ban these beverages from all intermediate and secondary schools and introduce a water-only policy.”

“Water is the best option for our growing children – not only for their teeth, but their bodies too. A diet high in sugar has also been shown to negatively impact behaviour and learning ability,” she says.

“Introducing a water-only policy will not only deliver long-term health benefits but will help to reduce pressure on an already stressed public health system, and the budget that funds it.”

“Applying effective preventative measures is the best and most cost-effective way of reducing sickness, so cutting the availability of sugary drinks at schools would be a great move.”

Sugary drinks are currently banned only in primary schools and made unavailable at some of our secondary schools.

NZDA would like to see our new government complete what the previous one failed to do before leaving office last year.

“We’ve advocated to successive governments for this change, and we got close to seeing it through last year before the change of government placed it back in limbo,” says Dr Johnston.

“This easy and cost-effective health measure is one we urge the new government to consider and deliver with urgency for the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children.”


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