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This issue of the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute's Research to Action examines access to safe drinking water in schools.
Research to Action - The Nutrition Policy Institute news brief

June 2019 | Vol. 3, No. 2

Turn to the tap at your school!

 
What is the issue?
All kids, no matter where they live, should have access to safe drinking water in school. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks is important to help kids grow up at a healthy weight and promote oral health. But the water must be safe to drink.
 
Reports of lead contamination have emerged in schools and communities across the country. Even at low levels, lead exposure has been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Young children are especially vulnerable to lead’s toxic effects.
 
Researchers from the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) at the University of California and National Drinking Water Alliance allies at the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined states’ efforts to test for lead in school drinking water.
 
The researchers detail their findings and the prevalence of elevated lead concentrations in tap water in public schools in a report, Early Adopters: State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States. The researchers found that 24 states and the District of Columbia had policies or programs in operation between January 2016 and February 2018 to test school drinking water for lead.
 
The findings show that there is no uniformity in:
  • States’ action levels, which is the level of lead in tap water that triggers a response
  • States’ protocols to test school drinking water for lead and to share their findings
  • States’ recommendations for school responses to testing
  • States’ organization and maintenance of water quality data
Only 12 of the 24 states that had policies or programs in place had data available for analysis. Of these twelve states, 12% of all taps tested had a lead concentration that exceeded the state’s action level. Read the report to learn more about steps to address lead in school drinking water. The report also includes a profile of findings for each of the study states, including California.
 
Why is this important?
“All kids, no matter where they live, should have access to safe drinking water in school,” said Angie Cradock ScD, MPE, report co-author and deputy director, Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Drinking water is important for helping kids grow up healthy, and water should be safe to drink.”
 
The NPI–Harvard study is the only study, to date, to obtain and analyze all available test results from statewide testing programs for lead in school drinking water. It is the only study, to date, to perform a structured content analysis of the language furnishing every state policy and state program aimed at reducing lead in school drinking water. Read the report to learn which states have a legislative policy, which have a program and which initiatives resulted in analyzable data.

“More must be done to ensure schools are able to effectively test for and respond to lead in drinking water,” said Christina Hecht PhD, report co-author and senior policy advisor, Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California. “We hope the report will be a valuable resource for federal and state agencies and will encourage them to continue taking action to address lead exposure in school drinking water.”
What can school communities do?  Beyond safety, there are many ways for school communities — leadership, administration, staff, teachers, students and parents — to improve school drinking water and help build healthy hydration habits. Studies show that with improved access to water and with drinking water education and promotion, children’s water consumption increases and body mass index (BMI) decreases. Combined with the cognitive, oral health, “green” and equity benefits — these are all good reasons to turn to the tap at your school!
Meet the researchers 
Meet the researchers and learn about improving drinking water access at the "Improving Drinking Water Access in School and Community: Barriers, Facilitators and Next Steps" session at the Childhood Obesity Conference, July 15–18, 2019, in Anaheim, California. 

Research to Action is a periodic news brief from the Nutrition Policy Institute in the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Please share Research to Action with colleagues who would be interested in receiving it, and please subscribe if you haven't already done so.
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NPI IN THE MEDIA

Washington Post
What to feed your baby? New dietary guidelines weigh in on pregnant women, infants and young children

USA Today
First-ever dietary guidelines coming for babies

California Health Today
Proposed law would require low-cost nutritious meals at day care centers and preschools

Salinas Californian
'It  will really help': Seniors, disabled hopeful as CalFresh food benefits open up

Food Tank
Science-Based Food Policies: What works, what doesn’t

California School Boards Association blog
Flushing lead from school remains a work in progress

NBC News
Lead in water: Study shows many schools have far too much

The Nation
With the government shut down, is your water safe?

The Guardian
A hidden scandal: America's school students exposed to water tainted by toxic lead

Governing
Lead in school water: Less than half the states test for It, and fewer require it


KCET
What a World War I poster can teach us about food waste

EVENTS

July 15–18, 2019
10th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference
Anaheim Marriott Hotel
Anaheim, California

The 10th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference is the nation’s largest, most influential collaboration of professionals dedicated to combating pediatric obesity/overweight. Nearly 2,000 professionals from across the country are expected to attend. Join us as we share and discuss emerging research, best practices, community-based efforts and effective policy strategies that promote and sustain healthy eating and physical activity practices for children, adolescents and their families. This year’s theme is Beyond Obesity: Tackling Root Causes.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Nutrition Policy Institute has established a student fellowship to honor Patricia Crawford, an inspiring leader and mentor whose pioneering accomplishments have helped to safeguard abundant and healthy food for all and promote healthy people and communities. Crawford was honored as one of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s 75 most influential alumni. She recently retired from NPI and to honor her immense and thought-leading contributions, NPI has set up a fellowship fund in her honor to train the next generation of students on nutrition research and its policy impacts. Help us honor Pat by donating to the student fellowship fund.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The Nutrition Policy Institute conducts research that improves the nutrition, health and well-being of people and communities across the state and the nation. Watch our new video to learn how we are mobilizing research to tackle the critical nutrition policy issues of our time.



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For a complete list of NPI publications, please visit npi.ucanr.edu/publications.

 
The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) conducts research on the impact of nutrition and physical activity on public health. NPI translates research findings into recommendations to provide a basis for effective decision-making, particularly related to the federal nutrition assistance programs.

We invite you to make a gift to the Nutrition Policy Institute to help us with our goals.
We greatly appreciate all donations.

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