Rethink Your Drink campaign fights obesity

Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer

Calloway County Wellness Consortium Obesity Workgroup developed Lighten Up Calloway, a five-year challenge series to target obesity.

Murray State took part in the first initiative, “Rethink Your Drink” to educate students about the harmful effects of sugar consumption in beverages.

Kentucky is the seventh most obese state in the United States, and 29 percent of Calloway County’s adults are obese, according to research by the Calloway County Wellness Consortium.

Lauren Smee, Murray State Wellness Coordinator, Miranda Terry, assistant professor and program director of public and community health, and Priscilla Dwelly, assistant nursing professor, head the initiative at Murray State. Health profession students have an opportunity to gain hands on experience.

“You can write it on paper and say you did this, but they are going to look and say, ‘Oh you did that?’ ‘How does that apply and how did that work out for you?’ You can apply so much more knowledge,” she said.

Terry’s HEA 210 students provide educational packets, which include a tracking tool sheet and a health behavior change contract for participants. The students will learn how to interact with clients, teach time sensitive goals and stress the importance of a support group so a participant can continue making healthy decisions.

Dwelly’s EXS 353 students are responsible for gathering body measurements such as body mass index, percent of body fat and hip and waist circumference.

Dana Manley’s NUR 410 students are taking participants’ blood pressure and discussing sugar content in beverages.

“Our main goal is to be student-centered and make sure they are getting the hands on experience and service learning component out of the class,” Terry said.

It takes about five minutes to sign up for the program. The health students first describe the program and how to create goals that will lead to behavioral changes. Baseline measurements are then taken.

Six weeks later, participants will return their tracking tool sheet, which shows the numbers of how many red, yellow and green drinks they consumed.

It will be interesting to see when there is a spike in red or yellow beverages and what factors influenced that, like finals week or the Super Bowl, Terry said.

Americans consume almost 100 pounds of sugar each year, according to research by the Calloway County Wellness Consortium.

Red drinks are unhealthy and should be avoided. This includes soda, energy and sport drinks, sweet tea, juice, sweetened coffee and two percent milk.

Yellow drinks are a better alternative to red drinks, but still have 1.5-3 teaspoons of sugar per twelve ounces. These are diet sodas, 100 percent fruit juice, low calorie drinks, diet tea and one percent milk.

The best beverage choices are in the green zone, and it is not limited to water. Skim or one percent milk, unsweetened tea, black coffee and carbonated water are healthy alternatives to red zone beverages.

“Overall, we want to be healthier, and drinking more stuff in the green can help boost energy. It helps how you look at yourself,” Godby said.

“I hope there is more awareness,” Dwelly said. “I do not know if the student-body population is ready to make the change.”

The initiative is reaching many employees and students at Murray State. In three days, almost 200 people agreed to participate in the initiative.

“Rethink Your Drink” is not just taking place at Murray State. The initiative is targeting elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.

The second initiative for Lighten Up Calloway is proposed to address physical activity and is planned to come out in September.

“The more people who understand and participate in health promotion, the healthier the community will be,” Terry said. “If the campus is a healthy community, then it will impact the community we are living in.”

Health profession students will be in the Curris Center every day, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The “Rethink Your Drink” campaign takes place Feb. 1 through March 14 on campus.