Preston North End is one of three Lancashire football clubs to have teamed up with Lancashire County Council, Healthy Stadia and Food Active to help children cut back on sugary drinks this summer.
Building on the success of the first Give Up Loving Pop programme, delivered in 2018, the Premier League Primary Stars team at Preston North End Community and Education Trust will encourage primary 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 high-sugar drinks can increase the likelihood of developing other serious health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer.
In the North West, more than one in three children (30.4%) have obvious dental decay at five-years-old, compared to the national average of 23.4%.
With a rate of 40.7% in Preston, children have considerably higher rates of dental decay at five-years-old, underlining the need for effective interventions at the earliest possible stage.
To help tackle poor oral health in the region, community coaches from the three clubs will deliver classroom-based games and physical activities to Year 3 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 hydrating with water is important for their education and playing sports.
Children and their families 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.
Children will receive a reusable water bottle and a postcard containing information on high-sugar drinks to take home to their parents. It is hoped that these initiatives, will begin to change the attitude and behaviours of children and young people toward high-sugar drinks and encourage them to switch to water and low-fat milk.
PNECET Schools Provision Coordinator Jack Mountain said: “Football can play such an important role in a child’s development.
“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, too.”
“This is the second time we have supported the Give Up Loving Pop programme in Lancashire and we’re confident that together we can help to tackle the interlinked issues of children being overweight, suffering from obesity and having poor oral health.”
Michael Viggars, European Healthy Stadia Network Project Manager said: “It is fantastic to see professional football clubs and their club community organisations using the power of their badge to help children and young people to cut back on sugary drinks.
“All too often, sport is used to promote unhealthy products, including high-sugar drinks, to children and young people. We hope this project will not only help the next generation to make healthier choices but also encourage the football family to recognise their role in promoting and endorsing soft drinks and ultimately reconsider football’s relationship with soft drink companies.”
Beth Bradshaw, Associate Registered Nutritionist and Food Active Project Manager said: “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-old being admitted to hospital for tooth extractions is the acid in high-sugar drinks.”