VicHealth announces $500,000 in funding to help sports venues ditch sugary drinks

Sweat. Slurp some water. Get back on the field or court.

It used to be something most sporty kids did without thinking. But with sugar-laden soft drinks and 'sports" drinks now dominating the fridges of many sporting venues across the state, VicHealth is working to steer Victorians, particularly children, back to basics.

On Tuesday, the health promotion foundation announced a $500,000 Water In Sport initiative, targeting areas with high rates of sugary drink consumption, obesity and poor dental health.

The cash will fund up to nine local councils to promote healthy drink options, particularly water, and reduce the availability and visibility of soft drinks and sports drinks at sporting venues.

"Sugary drinks, including sports and energy drinks, are the largest source of added sugars in the Australian diet. A standard 600ml sports drink has a whopping 11 teaspoons of sugar," said VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter.

"Unfortunately we constantly find a smorgasbord of these drinks at venues where children and families regularly play and watch sport. This sends an unhealthy message to our kids that sport and sugary drinks go hand in hand."

The announcement was welcomed by an alliance of 18 health and community organisations behind a separate campaign, Rethink Sugary Drink.

Its members, which include the Australian Dental Association, Cancer Council Australia and the YMCA, are working to tackle sugary drink consumption, and are lobbying for strategies such as a health levy on the drinks and a public education campaign supported by Australian governments.

As part of the initiative, the YMCA has committed to remove all sugar-sweetened drinks from its aquatic and recreation centres by the end of this year.

"We recognise that sugary drinks have no place in sport," said YMCA Victorian advocacy manager Ari Kurzeme.

"Some young Australians are consuming as much as 1.5 litres of soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks a day."

The YMCA has already phased out soft drinks from its centres, and recently removed sports drinks from sale.

In January, the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) began removing its vending machines, replacing them with a much smaller number containing healthy offerings such as mineral water.

Sugary snacks, chocolate-coated ice cream and soft drinks are also out the door.

Meanwhile, VicHealth is encouraging councils in disadvantaged communities to apply for its program funding.

"We know that not all Victorians have the same opportunities to achieve good health - some communities are doing it tougher than others," said Ms Rechter.

"That's why we'll be prioritising working with councils where data shows there are high levels of sugary drink consumption and poor health."

According to the Victorian Population Health Survey 2014, the highest numbers of daily soft drink consumers of all ages lived in the Buloke Shire Council region - between Bendigo and Mildura - where 24.3 per cent of sample respondents drank soft drink each day.

This was followed by followed by Colac Otway (22.5 per cent) and Loddon (21.9 per cent).

Obesity rates were highest in the Campaspe shire (32.3 per cent), followed by Moira (31.7 per cent) and the Pyrenees (30.1 per cent).

Applications for the Water in Sport Initiative grants close on Friday, October 27.

This story VicHealth announces $500,000 in funding to help sports venues ditch sugary drinks first appeared on The Age.