Reducing childhood sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

Using agent-based models to inform policy

Matt Kasman and
Matt Kasman Assistant Research Director - Center on Social Dynamics and Policy
Ross A. Hammond

August 7, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Many policy efforts have focused on reducing the availability of SSBs in schools and childcare settings
  • There is untapped potential for policy strategies targeting children’s SSB consumption in the home
  • One size doesn’t fit all: policymakers should carefully consider which strategies will have the highest impact in the contexts in which they operate
Young girl drinking soda.

Childhood consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) including sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks is linked to numerous negative near- and long-term health outcomes. Despite widespread recognition among public health experts that childhood SSB consumption should be reduced, doing so has proven to be a challenge. In a study from October 2022, we developed an agent-based model (ABM) to evaluate intervention efforts in different settings – childcare, schools, and at home. This research showed that reduction of access to SSBs in the home was the most promising context for intervention, reducing consumption by as much as 60%.

In a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, we replicated our previous research high-quality, longitudinal data from multiple cohorts of children from varied populations and environments. After verifying that the model was able to reproduce consumption patterns observed in each cohort, it was used it to simulate potential impacts of multiple intervention strategies across contexts.

  • Reducing home availability of SSBs consistently led to the largest potential reduction in overall consumption
  • A complete decrease in availability of SSBs in the home resulted in an average 67% decrease in overall early childhood consumption across the three cohorts
  • Potential intervention impacts can vary considerably across context. For example, reducing availability in center-based childcare resulted in substantially greater reduction in one cohort relative to the other two


  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

    Chris Miller assisted with the layout and design of this policy brief. 

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