Limited school drinking water access for youth
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Limited school drinking water access for youth

  • Published Date:

    May 24 2016

  • Source:
    J Adolesc Health. 59(1):24-29.
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-113.55 KB]

  • Alternative Title:
    J Adolesc Health
  • Description:
    PURPOSE Providing children and youth with safe, adequate drinking water access during school is essential for health. This study utilized objectively measured data to investigate the extent to which schools provide drinking water access that meets state and federal policies. METHODS We visited 59 middle and high schools in Massachusetts during spring 2012. Trained research assistants documented the type, location, and working condition of all water access points throughout each school building using a standard protocol. School food service directors (FSDs) completed surveys reporting water access in cafeterias. We evaluated school compliance with state plumbing codes and federal regulations and compared FSD self-reports of water access with direct observation; data were analyzed in 2014. RESULTS On average, each school had 1.5 (SD: 0.6) water sources per 75 students; 82% (SD: 20) were functioning, and fewer (70%) were both clean and functioning. Less than half of the schools met the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act requirement for free water access during lunch; 18 schools (31%) provided bottled water for purchase but no free water. Slightly over half (59%) met the Massachusetts state plumbing code. FSDs overestimated free drinking water access compared to direct observation (96% FSD-reported versus 48% observed, kappa=0.07, p=0.17). CONCLUSIONS School drinking water access may be limited. In this study, many schools did not meet state or federal policies for minimum student drinking water access. School administrative staff may not accurately report water access. Public health action is needed to increase school drinking water access. IMPLICATIONS AND CONTRIBUTIONS Adolescents’ water consumption is lower than recommended. In a sample of Massachusetts middle and high schools, about half did not meet federal and state minimum drinking water access policies. Direct observation may improve assessments of drinking water access and could be integrated into routine school food service monitoring protocols.
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