Los Angeles County effort aims to cut childhood obesity by lowering consumption of sugary drinks

Pre-kindergartners at the Los Angeles Children's Bureau near downtown join Dr. Paul Simon, of the department of public health, in a cheer for water at the launch of a health water campaign.
Pre-kindergartners at the Los Angeles Children's Bureau near downtown join Dr. Paul Simon, of the department of public health, in a cheer for water at the launch of a health water campaign.
Elizabeth Aguilera

Listen to story

00:59
Download this story 0MB

A group of pre-kindergartners joined county officials Tuesday in a cheer. 

“Choose health, choose water!” they shouted at a downtown launch of a public awareness campaign aimed to decrease the consumption of sugary beverages and to increase water intake.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health say the countywide effort, dubbed “Water: The Healthiest Choice,” is critical - especially in Los Angeles where 19 percent of two-to-four-year-olds, who receive benefits from the Women and Infants program, are obese.  

The effort is one part of a multi-tiered campaign by county officials that includes boosting exercise programs and working with grocery stores  and restaurants to increase water and healthy food options for children.

"If we don’t intervene much earlier in the life course we are not going to be successful in turning the curve on this obesity epidemic,”  says Paul Simon, director of the division of chronic disease and injury prevention for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Countywide, more than 43 percent of children ages 17 years or younger consume at least one sugar-loaded drink each day, which far exceeds the American Heart Association's recommendation of consuming no more than 450 calories in sugary beverages per week. 

“It used to be that the sugary drinks were a special treat, they’ve now in many families become a staple, literally every day children are consuming large amounts,”  says Simon.

And that includes fruit juices. Simon warns parents that despite popular belief,  fruit juices contain excessive amounts of sugar, making water the best choice for kids.

The media campaign will go up on billboards, on buses and online in the next several weeks.

First 5 LA funded the initiative, which will run through December.