Water Access and Consumption

Water is an ideal beverage choice for children and adults.  It hydrates the body, is very low-cost, and is calorie-free.  Limited access to water during school and after-school hours can pose problems for children’s health if it makes high calorie, sugary drinks (such as soda, fruit drinks, sport drinks, fruit-ades and juice) the default choice for hydration throughout the day.

The Harvard Prevention Research Center is working with community partners in Boston, including the Boston Public Health Commission, to create public spaces that promote water consumption and reduce access to unhealthy beverages. Below you will find:

  • Tools and Lessons to teach kids the importance of healthy lifestyles, including water consumption.
  • Tips for making your school and afterschool program water-friendly.
  • Sample materials for communicating these messages to families.
  • Examples of national and state policies to promote water in schools.
  • Scientific publications from the HPRC that provide the evidence-base for the impact of water-access and quality on children’s health, including evidence of successful strategies to increase water access and consumption in afterschool programs and a study comparing costs of different water delivery systems.
  • Other useful resources.

Tools, Lessons, & Tips

Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity (OSNAP)


OSNAP is an initiative designed to develop healthy habits related to healthy foods, drinks, and physical activity through sustainable policy and environmental strategies during out-of-school time hours. This initiative promotes the following water access and healthy foods and beverages goals:

Tip Sheets:
Water, Water Everywhere!
Sugar Sweetened Beverages

Fast Maps for:
Improving Water Consumption
Eliminating Sugary Drinks from Snacks Served

Food & Fun

This curriculum is designed to assist program staff in providing healthier environments to children during out-of-school time. Food & Fun Afterschool includes 11 teaching units that use both lessons and activities to encourage healthy behaviors through active play, literacy and math skills development, creative learning, and hands-on snack time activities.

Information for Leaders: Unit 10: Water

Eat Well & Keep Moving


An interdisciplinary elementary school program designed to promote healthful eating and physical activities in school, home, and community environments.



Planet Health

An interdisciplinary curriculum focused on improving the health and well-being of sixth through eighth grade students while building and reinforcing skills in language arts, math, science, social studies, and physical education.

Tip Sheet: Activate Your Family




Cradock AL, Wilking C, Olliges S, Gortmaker SL. Getting Back on Tap: The Policy Context and Cost of Ensuring Access to Low-Cost Drinking Water in Massachusetts Schools. Am J Prev Med. 2012 Sep;43(3 Suppl 2):S95-101.

Giles CM, Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL, Lee RM, Thayer JC, Mont-Ferguson H, Cradock AL. Increasing Water Availability During Afterschool Snack: Evidence, Strategies, and Partnerships from a Group Randomized Trial. Am J Prev Med. 2012 Sep;43(3 Suppl 2):S136-42.

Gortmaker SL, Story M. Nutrition policy research that can lead to reduced childhood obesity in the u.s. Am J Prev Med. 2012 Sep;43(3 Suppl 2):S149-51.

Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. The Lancet 2001;357:505-508.

Wang YC, Bleich SN, Gortmaker SL. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988-2004. Pediatrics. 2008 Jun;121(6):e1604-14.

Wang YC, Ludwig DS, Sonneville K, Jiang H, Gortmaker SL. Impact of change in sweetened caloric beverages on energy intake among children and adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Apr;163(4):336-43.

Bleich SN, Wang YC, Wang Y, Gortmaker SL. Increasing Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among U.S Adults: 1988-94 to 199-2004. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):372-81.

Mozaffarian RS, Wiecha JL, Roth BA, Nelson TF, Lee RM, Gortmaker SL. Impact of an organizational intervention designed to improve snack and beverage quality in YMCA after-school programs. Am J Public Health. 2010 May;100(5):925-32.

Cradock AL, McHugh A, Mont-Ferguson H, Grant L, Barrett JL, Wang YC, Gortmaker SL. Effect of school district policy change on consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among high school students, Boston, massachusetts, 2004-2006. Prev Chronic Dis. 2011 Jul;8(4):A74.

Other Resources