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In 2014, the Avance Center at the at Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University received a 3-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “REACH” grant to address poor nutrition in the Latino immigrant community of Langley Park, MD. REACH stands for Racial/Ethnic Approaches to Community Health and its funding is dedicated to addressing health disparities in underserved and underrepresented communities. REACH grants involve extensive collaboration with the community and a range of different strategies to help change the community environment related to nutrition.


Led by GW researchers Mark Edberg and Uriyoán Colón-Ramos, the Water UP! Project, supported by REACH funding, aims to reduce the high risk of obesity/diabetes by encouraging the residents of Langley Park to improve their health by drinking more water and reducing their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.

REACH_water_logo_concepts_L5Obesity is a major risk factor for Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease and has been shown to be disproportionately high among the Latino population in the United States, and particularly in Prince George’s County, MD where Langely Park is located and where a growing number of immigrants from Central and South America make their home. Studies have shown that obesity trends among Latino immigrant communities are increasing, and that these individuals tend to consume far more sugary beverages than other demographics. This can largely be attributed to expensive media campaigns and advertisements which specifically target Latino consumers.


As in other parts of the US, many people in Langley Park, MD believe that tap water is unclean and unsafe to drink and families may spend hundreds of dollars annually on sodas and highly-sweetened beverages, and on bottled water. Youth and mothers in Langley Park have expressed concern about the color, taste and smell of the water at schools and in their homes.


Informed by formative work in the community and the input of a Community Advisory Board (CAB), the Water UP! Intervention was designed to target behavior change in Langley Park, MD by using a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Removing barriers to greater water consumption in the community by increasing access to filtered water in schools and other places
  2. Creating a promotional/educational campaign to increase the appeal of drinking more water in schools and the community at large
  3. Engaging community businesses and restaurants to be advocates for good health and make water more available to their customers


To learn more about Water Up!, visit our website at Stay engaged with our activities through Facebook and Twitter!

Resources for Public Health Professionals and Community Leaders


Water in Schools – Information on promoting water in schools.

California Food Policy Advocates – Check CFPA’s website for more information on promoting water in schools, including fact sheets, reports, and policy updates.

School Nutrition Association – The School Nutrition Association represents school food service staff across the country. The SNA website has useful updates and resources related to school nutrition.

Reports and Toolkits

Water Works Guide – Download your free copy of Water Works – A Guide to Improving Water Access and Consumption in Schools. The guide provides strategies, tools, and resources to help you make water the go-to beverage for students.

National Policy & Legal Analysis Network (NPLAN) – NPLAN produced this useful fact sheet on promoting water consumption in schools.

Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools – A guide from CDC to increase access to drinking water in schools including a needs assessment, action plan, and evaluation.

Improving Student Access to Tap Water for Better Health – UpStream Public Health’s report of lessons learned working with school districts in Oregon to install new water stations in schools.


Boston Public Health Commission – This Commission has put together a Healthy Beverages Toolkit for organizations, institutions, and government agencies that outlines a comprehensive approach to improving the beverage environment

California Obesity Prevention Program (COPP) – The California Obesity Prevention Program (COPP) is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded program within the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that is working towards the goal of increasing physical activity, improving nutrition, and preventing obesity among all Californians.

Additional Resources

California Department of Education – Check CDE’s “Drinking Water for Students in Schools” page for more on how to provide water in schools

California Project LEAN – is a joint program of the California Department of Public Health and the Public Health Institute. California Project LEAN works to advance nutrition and physical activity policy in schools and communities in order to prevent obesity and its associated chronic diseases.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – The CDC has a webpage focusing on adolescent and school health, specifically on water access in schools.
USDA, Food and Nutrition Service – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the school meal programs. The FNS website provides updates, resources, guidance, and more from the federal government on school nutrition.

Take Back the Tap – “Take Back the Tap” is a campaign run by Food and Water Watch to encourage tap water consumption and reduce bottled water use.

Water First: Think your Drink – This colorful website contains tips and tools for parents and kids on the importance of drinking water and reducing consumption of sugary drinks.