Thirsty for Health cartoon character

Oral Health Kansas believes in the mission of making every child’s potential a reality, and students 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. According to the CDC, “Drinking water can contribute to good health, and schools are in a unique position to promote healthy, dietary behaviors, including drinking water.” Thirsty for Health accomplishes this goal through engaging and empowering families, communities and schools to advocate for the health of all children.

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. This initiative is designed to help schools promote drinking water by making it more accessible, available and desirable to schoolchildren and young adults.

    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 above.

For more information, please contact Kelly Rippel, Water Access Manager at 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
Cheney USD 268
Haysville USD 261
Nickerson/South Hutchinson USD 309
Grinnell USD 291

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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