Oral Health Kansas Advocacy • Public Awareness Education
Cartoon Contest winner

Mouth Matters


People who drink 3 or more glasses of soda each day have 62% more tooth decay, fillings and tooth loss.

Thirsty for Health cartoon character Thirsty for Health

Oral Health Kansas believes in the mission of making every child’s potential a reality. Thirsty for Health is a three-year project funded by the Kansas Health Foundation, and accomplishes this goal through engaging and empowering families, communities and schools to advocate for the health of all children. Kids who drink water do better in school. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and teenagers be taught to pick water as their first drink of choice. Thirsty for Health is designed to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that will increase access to and student consumption of healthy beverages like water throughout the school day, and milk during lunchtime.

By participating in this project, schools districts will have added support to meet the water access parameters stated in the Kansas School Wellness Policy Guidelines for Nutrition. Popular culture has made beverages other than water exciting, interesting, and often the preferred choice for young people. Water is calorie-free and helps children avoid health problems such as obesity and dental caries when it is chosen over high calorie, sugar-sweetened drinks. The CDC says, “Drinking water can contribute to good health, and schools are in a unique position to promote healthy, dietary behaviors, including drinking water.” This project is designed to do just that – help schools promote drinking water by making it more accessible, available and desirable to Kansas schoolchildren.

Bringing Thirsty for Health to your school could provide the following support and resources:
Free resources and assessments for benchmarking where water consumption can be increased
A sugary drink display demonstrating the levels of sugar contained in popular beverages
Education materials and curricula along with assistance in updating administrative and building policies plus facility water access points
Facilitation for focus groups and social media campaigns including a cartoon character contest to help improve student perceptions about how drinking water is both the healthy and ‘cool’ choice.

Access to drinking water helps Kansas kids stay healthy
Across the country, health care workers and public health professionals fight a battle against rising adult obesity rates. Even more frightening, though, is the health status of our children, with nearly 1 of every 3 kids age 10-17 being classified as overweight or obese.

One way to combat this epidemic is by ensuring children have access to drinking water during school hours, instead of just drinking sugary beverages. The Kansas Health Foundation is supporting this effort, which is being led by Oral Health Kansas.

“If we can improve the access and understanding in children that they need to drink more water, their overall health and their futures will be much brighter,” said Kelly Rippel, water access manager at Oral Health Kansas.

To learn more about this work, and to see how it's making a difference in Bonner Springs, please watch the video below.


    For more information, please contact Kelly Rippel, Water Access Manager at krippel@ohks.org or call 785.235.6039

    These are the participating schools in the Thirsty for Health Project:
    Galena USD 499
    Bonner Springs USD 204
    Fort Scott USD 234
    Emporia USD 253
    Colby USD 315
    Seaman USD 345
    Silver Lake USD 372
    KS School for the Deaf
    KS School for the Blind

    Meet our Thirsty for Health Advisory Panel:
    Chip Blaser
        Executive Director, Douglas County Community Foundation

    Cheryl Johnson, MS, RD, LD
        Director of Child Nutrition & Wellness, KSDE

    Kevin Robertson, MPA, CA
        Executive Director, Kansas Dental Association

    Brian Smith, E.D.
        Superintendent of Galena, USD 499

    Cathleen Taylor-Osborne, DDS, MA
        Director of Bureau of Oral Health, KDHE

    Christine Tuck, MS, RN, BSN, NCSN
        Nationally Certified School Nurse
        Health Services Director Seaman USD 345

    Annie Wallace, RN, BSN
        Nurse Manager, Kansas School for the Deaf
        President Elect, Kansas School Nurse Organization


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