New study of Rethink Your Drink curriculum to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in high school students suggests targeting younger students may be more effective

Nov 23, 2021

New research from the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute suggests that a 4-week Rethink your Drink curriculum for high school students can improve high school students' use of Nutrition Facts labels and decrease their consumption of diet soda. The Rethink Your Drink curriculum, developed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), promotes drinking water and a variety of healthy beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages and use of the Nutrition Facts label and Ingredient List to choose beverages with little or no added sugars. The curriculum was pilot-tested in three California high schools with over 220 students and compared to 92 students in two schools that did not receive the curriculum. Despite the positive impact on Nutrition Facts label usage and decreasing consumption of diet soda, there was only a small but not significant decrease in sugar-sweetened beverage intake by students receiving the curriculum compared to those that did not. These findings suggest that developing a curriculum that is effective for improving beverage consumption among high school students may be challenging. Interviews and surveys with teachers and focus groups with students suggest the curriculum could be shortened, made more engaging with interactive activities as well as taste-tests of healthy beverages, and that the curriculum be modified to target younger students to support earlier development of healthy beverage consumption habits. Researchers suggest the effectiveness of the Rethink Your Drink curriculum could be increased if paired with evidence-based policy, systems and environmental change strategies that eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from high-school students' environments. The study, funded by the CDPH, was published in the Health Education Journal in September 2021. Authors include Ron Strochlic, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Kaela Plank and Sridharshi Hewawitharana from NPI, and Jackie Richardson and Lauren Whetstone from CDPH.