Encouraging communities to be fizzy drink free

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Māori Public Health providers Hāpai Te Hauora say consumption of sugary drinks is linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, tooth decay and many other health problems. Fizz Free Whānau is a month-long challenge in January by Hāpai Te Hauora which challenges whānau to ditch the fizz and go fizzy drink free for that month.

Campaign Manager for Fizz Free Whānau, Kera Sherwood-O'Regan (Ngāi Tahu) says, "Obesity is a massive issue in Aotearoa when we have 15% of our Māori tamarki, 30% of our Pacifica tamariki who are obese compared to only 11%, which is obviously still a problem but of the general population, I think it's a massive equity issue and a massive health issue."

She hopes the program will help create long-term change.

"Establishing policies within our community organisations and supporting them to really take leadership themselves and decide hey this is a cool program we want to get behind this is what's going to work for out tamariki or out kaumātua or our whānau or our kaumātua and we want to support them and facilitate them to come up with projects that work for them really."

According to Hāpai Te Hauora each serving of sugary drink (including juices and flavoured milk) increases the risk of obesity by 60% among youth and children. The organisation also claims that Kiwis consume, on average, 43 litres of fizzy drinks per year.

"I think it's all well and good for people like myself who are really into this kind of thing to say well I know fizzy is bad for me so I'm not going to drink it but actually there are many who aren't as aware and also need support to be able to learn and understand what possible alternatives there are."

Grants will be open on the 1st of January for community organisations to apply for funding to carry out Fizz Free initiatives.

"So that could look like something like getting a water filter installed or buying sports equipment so that the tamariki can go outside or it could try to run health programs with the kids to get them cooking every week or something like that so we really want to put the power back in the hand of community to say this is what we want and we're there to facilitate this process."

Kera O'Regan says to turn the tide on obesity and obesity-related health issues, communities need to ditch the fizz.