For Immediate Release
October 4, 2011

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

KDHE Launches JUST ADD WATER Campaign in Shawnee County

Topeka - Beginning this week, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) will launch an eight-week pilot public health education campaign to provide information to Shawnee County parents about the benefits of water and the health risks associated with sugary drinks.

The JUST ADD WATER public health intervention is a pilot project that will take place in Shawnee County October through December. This project was developed and supported by the KDHE Bureau of Health Promotion with grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The intervention includes TV commercials, promotional posters and billboards. A new website will be launched on Oct. 10, providing information to parents about the benefits of water and the health risks of sugary drinks.  

The JUST ADD WATER intervention encourages parents to increase water consumption and reduce sugary drinks in their children’s diets. The intervention highlights the fact that a single 20 fl. oz. soda or juice drink can, on average, have as much sugar as two candy bars.

“Parents are in control of the dietary decisions they make for themselves and their young children, but all of us need to know the facts before we can put them to good use,” said Robert Moser, M.D.,  KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “Many parents may not realize how much sugar their kids are drinking each day. I hope this public health message gets the audience to think about the potential health consequences of too much added sugar.”

According to the CDC, children are among the hardest hit by the obesity epidemic. The prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in the U.S. has nearly tripled in the last three decades. Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet and research shows this contributes to the obesity epidemic.

Right here in Kansas, 28.1 percent of high school students are obese or overweight (YTS 2009). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that children who become overweight as adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.  

The health and finances of Kansans of all ages are significantly impacted by obesity. An estimated $1.3 billion is spent annually in Kansas on obesity-related medical expenditures, of which $385 million is paid by Medicaid and Medicare. One study found that obese individuals pay on average $1,429 (42 percent) more in health care costs than normal-weight individuals.

Obesity prevention efforts like JUST ADD WATER have the potential to improve the health of individuals and families in Kansas and help ease the burden of obesity-related medical costs on taxpayers.