GOVERNMENT RELATIONS on average citizens. And it’s no secret that some lawmakers and regulators want to focus on issues that grab headlines. But even beyond that, lawmakers love to provide their constituents (and the media) examples of how they helped save their communities. Here’s a conversation-starter for bottled water professionals. The cost of health care in the United States is staggering. Whether reporting on Obamacare or Medicaid, the media hardly lets a day go by without covering the overwhelming burden on the U.S. health-care system—and the health crisis in America. But, bottled water can help Americans become healthier, which means we have an amazing opportunity to chime in on health-care discussions with facts about the benefits of water consumption. Recent, important scientific research has shown how the simplest of changes in the average diet—switching from sugar-sweetened beverages to water—can reap huge benefits. It’s vital for bottled water professionals to relate such facts to our lawmakers.
The Swap and Flip Swapping out sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g., soda and juice) with bottled water is a healthy eating decision that can lead to better overall health and weight loss. With the obesity epidemic in America hobbling the U.S. health-care system, the positive results of drinking more water should not be minimalized. It’s our job to educate legislators and help them understand how adequate water consumption promotes overall health. We have access to research that’s sure to get the attention of those making important decisions about the future of health care in the United States. In fact, legislation is being introduced to help steer people toward making healthier beverage choices. At the local level, there are efforts to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. For example, in Berkeley, California, a sugar-sweetened beverage
tax not only showed a 21 percent drop in the consumption of beverages with added sugar but also a 63 percent increase in the consumption of bottled or tap water. This is a great example of the importance of keeping access to water, in all forms, available to consumers.
Dr. Armstrong’s research received national coverage in Fitness Magazine and on MensHealth.com. (Learn more by reading Dr. Armstrong’s article on p.20 in this issue of BWR: “Drink More Water Each Day to Optimize Mood and Mental Tasks.”)
EDUCATING LEGISLATORS ON HEALTHY HYDRATION IS OUR JOB. When broaching the topic of healthy hydration with lawmakers, you may find that they would rather talk about groundwater use or waste management. While those are obviously important issues to discuss, if you want to flip the conversation to healthy hydration, ask if they’ve heard about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) latest tweaks to the MyPlateMyWins print materials. (Check them out at bit.ly/ MyPlateMyHydrationWins.) One new recommendation states, “Drink water instead of sugary drinks.” You could note that when national organizations such as USDA, FDA, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promote healthier eating habits for Americans, they all agree on the benefits of water consumption. It’s important to relate that, in addition to the physical improvements that regular consumption of water can effect, there are mental benefits too. The research of Lawrence E. Armstrong, PhD, a professor at the University of Connecticut and trustee of the Drinking Water Research Foundation (DWRF), has shown the unique connection between proper hydration and cognitive performance. His data demonstrates how staying regularly and properly hydrated during the day can help people feel less fatigued, less confused, and overall in a better mood.
Lastly, a great way to show the bottled water industry’s support for any and all efforts to promote the consumption of water—whether filtered, bottled, or tap—is IBWA’s involvement with Drink Up (youarewhatyoudrink.org.) This campaign, created by the Partnership for a Healthier America (which works with stakeholders across the public and private sectors) and has Michelle Obama as its honorary chair, is dedicated to encouraging people to “drink more water more often.” That’s a message I think we all can get behind.
MEET YOUR LEGISLATORS The political landscape will be different in 2017, so it is more important than ever for IBWA members get to know their elected officials and educate them about bottled water issues. Visit bottledwatermatters. org and click the "Take Action" tab to learn the names of your current federal, state, and local legislators. Then, take a moment to contact them and let them know you work in their district and you'd like to talk with them about bottled water.