On Monday, Sept. 30, the UCR Healthy Campus (UCRHC) signed on to the UC Healthy Beverage Initiative (HBI). The Healthy Beverage Initative’s goal at UCR is to create healthy beverage zones by providing more access to tap water and reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). The goal of the initiative is to “increase access to water and hopefully reduce consumption of sugar sweetened beverages,” stated Julie Chobdee, staff co-lead for the HBI and wellness program coordinator.
UCRHC began to develop a committee that is focused on making strategies that will help students, staff and faculty make healthier drinking choices. The committee is planning to install more hydration stations and spigots to existing water fountains, create a signage and online mapping system to locate them and design marketing campaigns to encourage water instead of SSBs. UCR’s HBI is led by Julie Chobdee, Transportation and Parking Services Administrative Assistant Lauren Green, School of Business’ Acting Assistant Professor of Teaching in Information System Rich Yuen and Assistant Professor in Residence for the Center for Health Communities Dr. Ann Cheney. UCR’s HBI has a student team that is comprised of five UCR graduate and undergraduate students.
HBI was a program that was implemented by UC Healthy Campus Network in November of 2015. This program started with UCSF joining HBI and banning the sale of all SSBs on their campus. 10 months after this ban, UCSF had about a 50% reduction in consumption of SSBs and significant health improvements among employees. According to Green, UCRHC will not cut the sale of SSBs on campus, “since the university has contracts with Pepsi and all the different vendors that we can’t cut out (sugar sweetened beverages).” All UC campuses except for UC Merced are currently signed to HBI and have received $140,000 in funding from the Systemwide Human Resources Department.
HBI’s goal is to reduce unhealthy diets such as the mass consumption of beverages that are high in sugar. These high sugar diets are a large contributor to the development of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Chobdee said that water refill areas provide more opportunity for students, staff and faculty to make healthier choices.
In the fall quarter of 2019, UCRHC began collecting data to inform HBI of the effect that their intervention will produce. The committee conducted the various methods to evaluate the situation of water outlets on campus. They sent out a campuswide survey to analyze the usage and awareness of water outlets as well as the beliefs about the campus’ tap water condition. The survey asked for the respondents’ preferences on locations for water access and their thought process for choosing a beverage. The student HBI team made observations of these water outlets and administered baseline campus mapping of existing water outlets and SSB retail outlets. The committee also assessed focus groups consisting of students, faculty and staff. The HBI student teams managed the baseline mapping and administered focus groups. They evaluated water outlets, vending machines and SSB outlets on campus. They found that UCR had a total of 230 water sources, 21 SSB outlets and 55 vending machines.
Based on the 661 respondents to the survey, results showed that 62% of those on campus use hydration stations more than once a week while 44% used water fountains. It displayed that most people use hydration stations significantly more than water fountains. While 53% of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed that the water on campus is safe, many comments stated that filters are constantly expired and this leads to concern over the water’s cleanliness. Main barriers identified from the study include mistrust of the water quality due to the expired filters and difficulty in accessing hydration stations and water fountains.
In response to concern over the stigma that UCR’s water is unclean, Green responded, “We are going to test it and market it properly to make people aware that it’s safe to drink.”
HBI found multiple issues when conducting their evaluations. They found that there was a need for hydration stations in high foot traffic areas with no water access, such as areas within or near Skye Hall, CHASS Interdisciplinary, Watkins, Sproul Hall and the Humanities building. They also found that there was a desire for a map on the locations water outlets. The evaluations saw a major need for an increase in water access, especially with the rapid expansion of the university. They uncovered a need for an education on the meaning of the lights on hydration stations and more advertisements on water stations. There was a desire for more outdoor water sources and to lower the prices of water in vending machines. There were concerns over the visual obstruction of water sources and that there were no SSB free zones on campus. Chobdee said that the HBI committee will continue to collect data until this year’s spring quarter.
Green stated, “It’s one giant research project that we can take as a package and present to people: Here’s what happens when you increase access to water.” Chobdee added, “We’re hoping to have more water in the vending machines that are less expensive than the sodas because right now they are priced the same.” Green said that HBI will install water stations for the students who work in the R’Garden because there is no water to drink in the area. “As a result of the Healthy Beverage Initiative, dining services now offers free water by request. A 12 ounce cup of water,” stated Chopdee.
Chobdee said that once the installations are finished, the HBI committee will spread awareness of this new development on campus. The educational campaign will spread awareness through social media, reports and other advertisements on HBI.
The installation of hydration stations and spigots will occur before October of 2020. Chobdee said that students who want to get involved in the UCR Healthy Beverage Initiative should email email@example.com.