Public Release: 

Water availability associated with decreased student weight in New York schools

The JAMA Network Journals

The availability of relatively low-cost 'water jet' machines, which chill and oxygenate the water, was associated with decreased student weight and fewer half-pints of milk purchased per student, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

In 2009, the New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Education launched an intervention to increase lunchtime access to drinking water by putting "water jets" in school cafeterias. Water jets are electrically cooled, large, clear jugs that dispense water quickly and cost about $1,000 per machine.

Brian Elbel, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the New York University School of Medicine, and coauthors examined the effect of the water jet initiative on student body mass index (BMI), overweight and obesity. Milk purchases were examined as a potential mechanism for the weight outcomes.

The study included 1,227 New York public elementary and middle schools and their more than 1 million students. Among the 1,227 schools, 483 received a water jet (39.3 percent) and 744 (60.7 percent) did not.

Water jets were associated with a decrease in standardized BMI (0.025 reduction) and a decrease in the likelihood of being overweight (0.9 percentage point reduction) and the likelihood of obesity for boys (0.5 percentage point reduction). For girls, water jets were associated with a decrease in standardized BMI (0.022 reduction) and a decrease in the likelihood of being overweight for girls (0.6 percentage point reduction).

Water jets also were associated with a decrease in the amount of half-pints of milk purchased by students (a decrease of 12.3 per student per year), according to the results.

The study has limitations, including the use of administrative data on water jet delivery so use in the cafeteria was not observed and a lack of data on milk consumption.

"Results from this study show an association between a relatively low-cost water availability intervention and decreased student weight. Additional research is needed to examine potential mechanisms for decreased student weight, including reduced milk taking, as well as assessing impacts on longer-term outcomes. Water jets could be an important part of the toolkit for obesity reduction techniques at the school setting," the study concludes.

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(JAMA Pediatr. Published online Jan. 19, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3778. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Editor's Note: This project was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Please see article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, etc.

Editorial: Power of a Simple Intervention to Improve Student

"Sometimes, a very simple intervention can have a powerful effect. The study by Schwartz and colleagues in this issue of JAMA Pediatrics adds to a growing body of evidence supporting the importance of providing drinking water access in schools. In this study, the findings demonstrate that water access in schools can promote healthy weight outcomes among students," write Lindsey Turner, Ph.D., of Boise State University, Idaho, and Erin Hager, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, in a related editorial.

(JAMA Pediatr. Published online Jan. 19, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3798. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Editor's Note: Please see article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, etc.

Media Advisory: To contact corresponding author Brian Elbel, Ph.D., M.P.H., call Jim Mandler at 212-404-3525 or email Jim.mandler@nyumc.org. To contact editorial corresponding author Lindsey Turner, Ph.D., call Brady W Moore at 208-426-1586 or email bradywmoore@boisestate.edu.

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