Northland District Health Board has added its support to the move by the ministries of education and health to encourage schools to ban sugary drinks, calling it "one of the most important strategic steps that could be put in place to improve the health of Northland kids".
Health board CEO Nick Chamberlain said sugary drinks had a direct influence on some of the health conditions that impacted severely on the lives of children.
"They are one of the most significant causes of poor oral health, and contribute to childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. Sugary drink consumption is also associated with problem behaviours," DrChamberlain said.
"We're talking about large numbers of kids who will experience ongoing pain, reduced quality of life and lower life expectancy because of these drinks."
The ministries are encouraging schools to consider banning sugary drinks from their premises and adopting water-only (and plain reduced fat milk) policies, a move that Dr Chamberlain said aligned with Northland's Childhood Obesity Prevention Framework, developed recently by Northland's Health Alliance Leadership Team, comprising executives from the DHB, primary healthcare organisations (PHOs) and Maori health organisations.
Its goal was to increase the number of Maori tamariki at a healthy weight by 5 per cent through good kai in five years, a key focus of the framework being to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages in all settings, such as schools, early childhood centres and workplaces.
The DHB removed sugar-sweetened beverages from cafeterias and vending machines on its sites in late 2014 and can offer practical support for schools considering becoming water (and plain reduced fat milk) only, including a sample policy and advice.
"I acknowledge that it's a courageous step for boards of trustees to consider, but we are committed to supporting them. This could be the year that all New Zealand schools ban sugary drinks," Dr Chamberlain said.