Westmead Hospital is leading the charge against sugary drinks, banning the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages across the campus.
On March 1, the hospital launched the Rethink Your Drink trial – the first of its kind for a major Sydney hospital – aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary drinks among staff, patients and visitors.
As part of the three-month trial, sugar-sweetened beverages (except flavoured milk) will not be available for purchase in the hospital’s vending machines or food outlets and have been replaced with a range of alternative drinks, including water and natural fruit juice.
Westmead Hospital general manager Andrew Newton said the hospital needed to lead by example.
“The over-consumption of sugar is contributing to obesity in western Sydney – nearly half the adults and about 25 per cent of children are overweight or obese,” he said.
“Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) aims to lead by example – trialling the removal of sugary drinks at Westmead Hospital is one way of demonstrating our commitment to health.”
Hospital management and the Population Health team, along with major food provider Zouki and Coca Cola Amatil (who fill the vending machines), have worked closely with staff on the initiative.
Many workers have pledged their support for the campaign, offering to become “sugar-free ambassadors” and spruik the need to cut back sugar consumption.
WSLHD Population Health deputy director Christine Newman said sugary drinks were a particular problem as they contained empty calories.
“These drinks make it easy for people to consume a lot of sugar without realising it; a 600ml bottle of soft drink contains 16 teaspoons of sugar,” she said.
“We know that replacing one can of soft drink per day with water will make a huge difference to a person’s health – consuming one can of soft drink (375ml) a day is estimated to lead to a 6.75kg weight gain in a year and it can also lead to health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. This is a good opportunity for people to really look at the amount of sugar they are consuming and investigate ways to cut back.”
To provide feedback, contact WSLHD-CentreforPopulationHealth@health.nsw.gov.au