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“Water First for Thirst!” Says the City of Columbus, Ohio

Earlier this year, the First Lady joined the Partnership for a Healthier America to launch a new effort to encourage people to drink more water.  Drink Up is a nationwide effort to inspire Americans to drink more water. And the City of Columbus is taking the First Lady’s message to heart.

People are saying – and drinking – water first for thirst in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, Water First for Thirst! is more than just a message, it is a movement. A movement to make water the easy, appealing and first choice for children and families.

The message began in 2004 as part of a larger project to promote healthy weight in young children – Healthy Children, Health Weights (HCHW). HCHW is a childhood obesity prevention program at Columbus Public Health that promotes a healthy weight in children starting with the youngest age group—birth to 5 years old. Now Water First For Thirst! offers tools to help communities change their message, change what they serve and make a commitment through policy to support those changes.

The message is spreading. For nearly 10 years now, Water First for Thirst! has been promoted locally at child care centers and community based organizations. Posters are seen throughout the school system, in churches, on vending machines around the city, and other venues. This year, the Growing Healthy Kids Columbus Coalition (a local collaborative of over 50 organizations) adopted “Water First for Thirst!” as its 2013 campaign message and has had great success in getting the word out.  A 30-second TV spot featuring Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long ran on WBNS 10TV and web ads have been running with 10 TV’s Commit to be Fit. The Ohio State University Extension is also using Water First for Thirst! in education for teens across the State, and the Ohio Hospital Association is gearing up to promote Water First for Thirst! to hospital employees as part of their statewide worksite wellness campaign. 

Changes are happening to make water the easy choice. Columbus City Schools (the largest school system in the state) updated its vending contracts to allow only water to be sold in beverage vending machines that are accessible to over 50,000 students. Columbus Children’s Parade committed to serving only water at their annual event, involving more than 400 children. The City of Columbus has made changes to vending options and its recreations centers. Other organizations making changes include Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus Urban League, and YMCA. 

You can become a Water First for Thirst! partner by learning why water is important, how to change your message, and how to make water the easy choice. Link to web, print and social media tools, sample polices and vending language at

For more tips and to learn more about how you can help kids get a healthy start to life, visit the Let's Move! Child Care Website.