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Soft drink consumption in Aboriginal Communities

High consumption of soft drinks and other sugary drinks are associated with a number of health problems, including overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and dental caries. In Australia, soft drinks are the most commonly consumed sugary beverage and have been singled out for specific attention as a target of obesity prevention programs. The evidence linking soft drinks consumption to overweight and obesity is now strong.

Nearly two years ago, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin ordered two departments to give urgent advice about how to encourage people in the remote areas to consume less soft drink. One of the policy responses has been to install water bubblers in Indigenous communities.

Last month Rochelle travelled to the Kimberley with Asha Singh and Emma Douglas from Diabetes WA to visit the Aboriginal communities of Bidyadanga and Djarindjin. This trip formed part of Rochelle’s AHPA (WA Branch) and Healthway scholarship project which is being undertaken in partnership with PHAIWA and Diabetes WA.

The project aims to reduce soft drink consumption through the installation of water fountains and in-store strategies to promote water over soft drink. As part of this trip, the girls worked with the community store managers to identify ways to promote water. Some of the strategies that the store owners plan to implement include: running lunchtime meal deals that have water as the beverage option, dedicating prime shelf space within the stores to water, introducing smaller cans of soft drink, and putting up posters that highlight the health benefits of choosing water instead of soft drink.

The communities were very supportive of the project strategies and felt that installing a water fountain was a great way to reduce soft drink consumption. The local Bidyadanga school children (pictured below) said they would use the water fountain often as they walk past it on their way to school making it easy for them to stop and quench their thirst.

We are now eagerly waiting to find out if the strategies have been effective in reducing soft drink consumption.  

 Ciarn Dean and Shalayah Smiler enjoying the water fountain in Bidyadanga (below)                                     

and Western Beach, Cape Leveque (below right)

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