The Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, published today (18 August 2016), focuses on cutting down obesity and related health conditions like diabetes. ERIC believes the strategy is a missed opportunity to encourage children to drink more water, which would both help tackle obesity and improve children’s bowel and bladder health. 

Campaigners have called the strategy ‘feeble’ for not taking a tougher line with the food and drinks industry. The strategy has also completely overlooked the role that drinking water plays in tackling obesity and improving child health. 

Continence problems can develop and worsen as a result of dehydration and a vital step in treating already existing conditions like constipation and wetting is drinking more water. 

The main thrust of the strategy is towards reducing sugar levels in soft drinks by levying a tax on companies. This is intended to encourage companies to reduce sugar content and offer healthier alternative drinks. Water is the healthiest of all drinks yet it is not mentioned once in the strategy. 

The strategy emphasises that the poorest children in society are the most at risk of obesity, yet encouraging children to drink water - which can be accessed for free at school - has been ignored.

The strategy introduces an annual competition to recognise schools with the most innovative and impactful projects to fight obesity, ERIC would be thrilled if schools adopted drinking water schemes as part of these projects. 

ERIC is hoping to re-launch its highly successful campaign ‘Water is Cool in School’ to get schools to actively promote and encourage drinking water. Charities interested in the role that drinking water plays in child health are encouraged to support the campaign and can notify ERIC of their interest by sending an email to ERIC’s Communications Manager Alina Lynden – alina@eric.org.uk.

How does dehydration affect the bladder and bowel?   

Wetting accidents - If children do not drink enough during the day, their urine becomes concentrated and can irritate the bladder. This can lead to daytime wetting. Not drinking enough can also reduce the amount of urine the bladder can hold and this can cause leakage. If children drink most of their daily fluid when they get home from school, this can contribute to bedwetting.

Urinary tract infections - Bacteria can develop in concentrated urine which increases the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). A UTI can be extremely painful and cause severe discomfort. If a UTI is left untreated it can cause harm to the kidneys. 

Constipation - Not drinking enough water can also contribute to constipation. As food moves through the large intestine, or colon, water is drawn from it into the lining of the intestine. The more water is drawn from the poo, or the less water there is to start off with, the harder the poo will become and it will be difficult to pass.