Aussie students learn valuable lesson about health threat of sugary drinks

Now in its third year, the Critics’ Choice program, run by Rethink Sugary Drink (of which the ADA is a member) has one specific aim – to teach Australian primary and secondary school students, who are regularly exposed to ads for a vast range of sugary drinks products, how much damage these drinks are doing to their oral and general health.

It accomplishes this by asking them to critique nine different public health TV commercials and then pick the one they believe most effectively gets the message across to its audience.

The winner this year was a thought-provoking video which shows a man running across great swathes of the Australian countryside in an attempt to work off the sugary drinks he is consuming.

Pointing out that it takes three kilometres to expend the energy of just one can of drink, the ad makes the salient point that most people don’t undertake that level of exercise, and nor are they capable of it, the end result being all kinds of health complications including tooth decay, diabetes and even cancer.

The solution to this excess of sugary drinks consumption? Switching to water which carries all of the benefits and none of the risks of its artificial counterpart.

The initiative goes far beyond the vote for the most effective ad with the Critics’ Choice program encouraging teachers to complete activities from the Teacher Resource and initiate classroom discussion around the advertisements. When students vote, their school automatically goes into the draw to win a sporting equipment voucher valued at $500.

With Australia’s Oral Health Tracker graphically demonstrating the parlous state of teenager’s health in this country, with figures showing just over 73% of young people (14-18 years) are consuming too much sugar, the campaign is a timely one.

Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, a partner of Rethink Sugary Drink partner, hopes these campaigns will end Australians’ love affair with sugary drinks.

“At a time when young Australians are bombarded with a huge amount of sugary drink marketing it’s great to see primary and secondary schools incorporating Critics’ Choice as part of the curriculum. By voting and discussing the important messages delivered in these anti-sugary drink campaigns, students are able to see for themselves what big beverage brands neglect to share – the real damage regularly consuming sugary drinks can have on our health.” Mr Sinclair said.

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