Benedict to roll out ‘Rethink Your Drink’ program

By Robert Mills

CABNR Nutrition Professor Jamie Benedict is prepared to roll out the beginning phases of a statewide "Rethink Your Drink" program.

Across the nation, organizations, nutritionists and health professionals are spreading the word that the road to a healthy bodyweight begins with an easy step - reducing the intake of calories from sugary drinks. The message comes at a time when childhood obesity is a national health crisis. Benedict said nutritionists and diet professionals recognize the need to reduce the intake of sodas, juices and other sugary drinks.

"This whole thing about sugary drinks is just enormous," Benedict said. "New dietary guidelines continue to hammer home the point that we have to reduce these consumption rates of sugary beverages."

Benedict began formative research in May by developing focus groups with limited- resource families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly the Food Stamp program.

"What we'll do is have interviews with SNAP parents to find out what it's like in the home," Benedict said. "Part of the research suggests that families with limited resources have more access to sugary drinks. Is it cost? Is it preference? These are questions we hope to answer." Cutting back on the intake of sugary drinks starts by limiting access, Benedict said.

Since data suggests most sugary drinks are consumed in the home, Benedict will aim Rethink Your Drink at parents. After completing formative research, Benedict will shift gears and start spreading the word. With the help of dentists, nurses and family practitioners, she hopes to deliver a message that can compete with the powerful soft-drink advertising industry.

If all goes well, and solid research meets with a strong campaign, Benedict hopes the Rethink Your Drink program will improve the lives of Nevadans, particularly Nevada youth. "It's a hard message not to get behind," Benedict said. "If it's as easy as limiting it in the household, we could have a real, positive impact on the health of children."