As the temperature continues to rise outside, Preston North End have joined two other local clubs in partnering up with Lancashire County Council, Healthy Stadia and Food Active to help children to cut back on sugary drinks.
Using the power of the club's badge, community coaches from Preston North End will join coaches from Accrington Stanley and Fleetwood Town in encouraging school children to 'Give Up Loving Pop' and to drink more water and low-fat milk.
Whilst many people are aware that excess consumption of sugar, particularly sugary drinks, can lead to tooth decay, fewer are aware of the link between high-sugar drinks and weight gain. In the long-term, regular consumption of sugary drinks can increase the likelihood of developing other serious health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer.
Data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) also reveals that four in ten Year Six children in Hyndburn (39.3 per cent) and three in ten Year Six children in Preston (31.8 per cent) and Wyre (29.1 per cent) carry excess weight.
And the situation in the North West is no better when it comes to oral health, with more than one in three children (33.9 per cent) having obvious dental decay at age five, compared to the England average of 23.3%.
However, Hyndburn (45.8 per cent) and Preston (39.6 per cent), two of the Give Up Loving Pop delivery areas, have considerably higher rates of children with obvious decay at age five, underlining the need for effective interventions at the earliest possible stage.
To help tackle this, specially trained community coaches will deliver classroom-based games and physical activities to Year Five children that will teach them why it is important to look after their teeth and gums, how to read and interpret food labels on bottles or cans of drinks, and why hydration is important for their education and playing sports.
Children and young people will also be challenged to cut right back on sugary drinks and to 'Give Up Loving Pop' for 21 days as part of the GULP Lancashire project.
At Key Stage Two, children will score points for cutting back on sugary drinks with the highest-scoring primary school classes from Hyndburn, Wyre and Preston winning exclusive prizes from Accrington Stanley, Fleetwood Town and Preston North End respectively.
At Key Stage Three, young people will be encouraged to sign-up to and follow a Facebook campaign which will highlight the marketing techniques used by sugary drinks manufacturers to promote their products.
As part of the project, all Key Stage Two children will receive a reusable water bottle and a postcard containing information on sugary drinks to take home to their parents. It is hoped that these initiatives, which will be evaluated by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, will begin to change the attitude and behaviours of children and young people towards high-sugar drinks.
Matthew Philpott, Director, European Healthy Stadia Network said:
“It is fantastic to see professional football clubs and their community trusts use the power of their badge to help children and young people to cut back on sugary drinks.
“We hope that other football stakeholders will take note and reconsider their relationship with high-sugar drink companies, which use sport and physical activity to associate their products with a healthy and active lifestyle, which runs contrary to what the evidence is telling us – that sugary drinks are bad for our health, in particular for our children.”
On the initiative, Harriet Creighton-Levis, Head of Education and Health at Preston North End Community & Education Trust said: “As Preston’s local professional football club and Community Trust, it is almost our duty to help combat these alarming figures, and through this fantastic new initiative - alongside our Education Programmes, we’re hoping that we can encourage more children to ‘Give Up Loving Pop’ this summer.
“Football can play such an important role in a child’s development, so it’s vital that we are educating children of the impact of excess sugar consumption through sugary drinks - using an array of sporting examples through classroom-based and physical activity sessions, we hope to educate not only the children but parents alike.”
Beth Bradshaw, Food Active Project Officer, added: “Despite some sugary drinks manufacturers reformulating their products following the introduction of the Sugar Tax, many traditional fizzy drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks still contain huge amounts of sugar – up to 16 cubes of sugar for some - which can be extremely detrimental to children’s health.
“Even diet and zero drinks, which have previously been seen as a step in the right direction, contain lots of acid which can soften tooth enamel. Part of the reason we are still seeing huge numbers of children in the North West under five years of age being admitted to hospital for tooth extractions is the acid in high-sugar drinks.”
You can follow the GULP Challenge Facebook campaign here beginning Monday 11 June 2018: