S'pore children drinking sugary drinks too frequently: HPB

PHOTO: S'pore children drinking sugary drinks too frequently: HPB

SINGAPORE - A latest survey by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) shows that an unhealthy proportion of Singapore children and teenagers consume sugary drinks frequently.

More than 40 per cent of students in secondary schools, junior colleges and the centralised institute consume sugary drinks daily, the survey discovered.

Chief Executive Officer of HPB Mr Ang Hak Seng said that this is likely because sugary drinks have been a constant part of the diet of Singaporean children since young.

A separate HPB survey found that 28 per cent of parents and caregivers of children between four and nine years old give their kids sugary drinks more than once a week.

This percentage increases to 34 per cent for children aged 10 years and above.

Research has shown that the consumption of sugary drinks is linked to poor dietary choices and obesity in children, and these health issues follow them to adulthood, HPB said.

Limiting sugary drinks consumption among local youngsters therefore has a substantial impact on Singapore's public health in the long run.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport, said : "One regular can of sugary drink contains about seven teaspoons of sugar. In contrast, water has zero calories.

"As lifelong dietary habits are formed at an early age, we need to pay more attention to what our children and teenagers are consuming when they are still young," he added.

To urge youths to replace sugary drinks with water, as well as drink enough to stay healthy and hydrated, HPB is launching Singapore's first "Let's Drink Water Campaign".

As part of the campaign, HPB will be working with pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools and Post-secondary Education Institutions (PSEIs) to raise awareness on this issue.

For example, HPB has helped develop a lesson plan for teachers to encourage water drinking among pre-school children and is appointing pre-school Health Ambassadors to encourage their peers to drink water and lead classes in singing the "Sip to be Cool" water jingle.

In addition, under the Championing Efforts Resulting in Improved School Health (CHERISH) framework, primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges and the centralised institute are encouraged to make water coolers available around their premises.

Some other initiatives include revising the criteria for certifying pre-schools as CHERISH Junior pre-schools to include the provision of adequate water breaks throughout the day, the provision of water as part of every balanced and healthy meal served at the school, and an enhanced curriculum to teach students the benefits of drinking water over sugary drinks,

By 2015, HPB aims to have 500 pre-schools certified as CHERISH Junior pre-schools.

HPB is also working to have primary schools, secondary schools and junior colleges initiate water breaks after lessons.

Beyond the school setting, HPB is advising parents to ensure that children between three and six years old drink three to five glasses of water a day.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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