Young people and their families are canning soda in Austin, Texas.
The Austin Independent School District and Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas launched a challenge last week asking students to pledge to not drink soda during the school week.
The effort is being led by PreventObesity.net Leader Dr. Stephen Pont, who serves as both medical director for the school district and is a pediatrician at the medical center. Pont tells the Inside Track that the campaign provides a way to educate students and their families about the health risks that come with drinking too many sugary beverages.
A typical 20 ounce bottle of soda contains roughly 15 teaspoons of sugar, which is equivalent to the amount of sugar found in two candy bars, he points out. “There’s definitely a good opportunity to reinforce the message of how much sugar is in a soda,” Pont says.
Childhood obesity is a major concern in Austin. Roughly one third of school-age children in the city are overweight or obese, but in some neighborhoods it’s as high as two-thirds of children.
Pont says he’s seen the medical effects of childhood obesity firsthand in his practice, as many of his young patients come into his office suffering from conditions such as Type II Diabetes.
But Pont notes that the epidemic also has spawned a lot of grassroots action in the city aimed at improving health, particularly in low-income communities. In fact, the idea for the challenge came from an effort in two East Austin communities, where residents are coming up with six challenges for residents to take on to lead healthier lives.
One of the challenges was for residents to give up drinking sugary sodas during the week, and the groups asked Pont to issue the challenge on their behalf throughout the city.
“We’re making this promise for our families and urging all families here to do the same,” says Edgar Chacon, a member of Manantial de Salud Dove Springs, a grassroots health network that is working to improve health in the Latino community. “Our children’s health is at stake and every small step like this will help in the fight against obesity.”
Pont says the campaign has been well-received thus far and he expects students will take part, as many have already shown they are committed to being healthy.
Earlier this summer, for example, a group of Austin high school students worked together on a project to create digital campaigns designed to raise awareness about childhood obesity. As part of the project, the students put together an iBook. The topic: “Is Our Appetite For Sugar Killing Us?”
“This seemed to really resonate with high school kids,” Pont recalls, noting that the students really focused on how toxic the environment can be for health. “They became sort of advocates themselves.”
Students and families who accept the challenge can text “nosodas” to 84444 or send an email to [email protected] to sign up. Pledge takers also can share their stories via nosodatx.blogspot.com.
Click here to connect with Dr. Stephen Pont. You can also connect with the campaign on Twitter via @nosodatx.