Fizzy-Free at DHB Well-Received

The decision to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from Northland DHB hospital cafeterias and vending machines after October 1 has been met with enthusiastic approval from both staff and public.

General manager of Northland DHB Child, Youth, Maternal, Public and Oral Health Services Jeanette Wedding says the decision has had a lot of support from staff, as well as receiving positive comments from the public, particularly on Facebook.

“The stocks are going down per the Northland DHB’s request that they be reduced during September and we will be monitoring for compliance from 1 October. Thanks to staff and public for their support in initiating a strategy to improve healthy lifestyles.”

Northland DHB recently decided to walk the talk by eradicating all sugar-sweetened beverages on-site from October 1.

Sugar-sweetened beverages can contain large amounts of sugar (and, therefore, energy) but few other nutrients. These generally include soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, sports drinks, energy and vitamin water drinks. Low or no-sugar beverage options include water, unflavoured milk, non-sugar added fruit and vegetable juices, tea, coffee, artificially- sweetened diet or zero drinks and these will still be available onsite.

The move was met with strong approval from doctors, diabetes and oral health services, to name a few.

Says Emergency Department doctor Cameron Schauer: “As health professionals, we set an example for our patients and leadership starts by providing this example.

“Dropping fizzy drinks is an easy first step to help equalise energy input and energy output and gain health.  

“As doctors and health professionals, we need to lead by example and, by removing sugary drinks from our hospitals, we can also show that there are plenty of great, healthier alternatives.”

Northland DHB Oral Health advisor Dr Neil Croucher says the decision to remove all sugar-sweetened beverages onsite is a great example of health promotion and “what better place to start than our own workplace?

“What fantastic news to hear of Northland DHB's decision to make our work environment a healthier place to live and work.

“The cornerstone of health promotion is to make the ‘healthier choices the easier choices’, or another way of looking at it is making the ‘unhealthy choices the more difficult choices’. Soon I will be able to walk into my hospital café and see mostly water and natural fruit juices as the 'easy to grab' drink choices.”

Dr Croucher says that, similar to the smoking cessation journey of the last 25 years, this small step of removing sugar-sweetened beverages from the café and vending machine outlets could be the start of another journey, this time with a destination that he hopes will eventually change society's perceptions and views around high-sugar-containing drinks and foods. 

“If you watched Nigel Latta's documentary recently on society's sugar epidemic, he made the claim that ‘Sugar is the new fat’. From a general health perspective, he is totally right. However the difference with sugar over fat is that, not only will it cause obesity and diabetes, it is also the prime cause of tooth decay.”

Tooth decay experience in both the developed and developing world is at pandemic proportions. Dr Croucher says the dental industry continues to see Northland children younger than three who already have all their teeth decayed.

“Frequent intake of sugary-laden drinks and foods easily overcomes the protective mechanisms of fluoride toothpaste and calcium rich saliva. The result is uncontrolled tooth decay in many of our children and adolescents that is a well-known predictor of early onset of obesity, diabetes and cardiac disease in adulthood.

However the challenges are just as big as they have been for smoking cessation and reducing alcohol consumption: We are up against multi-million dollar global companies who want to sell as much sugar-saturated fizzy drinks as they can.

“The changes we will see in our hospital cafés and vending machines on October 1 are a small step but are definitely a step in the right direction."

Emergency Department doctor Cameron Schauer.

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