By Emily Goodin - 09/12/13 10:00 AM EDT
Michelle Obama is enlisting the help of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon and other celebrities to encourage people to drink more water.
All three nighttime talk show hosts will drink water throughout their programs on Thursday to highlight the first lady’s anti-obesity “Let’s Move” initiative, which is now encouraging people to drink more water.
The White House argues the campaign is focused only on the virtues of drinking water, and that it isn't telling people to drink less soda or other high-calorie drinks, which some health groups have targeted in anti-obesity efforts.
Michelle Obama will hold a rally Thursday in Watertown, Wis., to draw further attention to the cause. Helping out will be actress Eva Longoria, a prominent Obama supporter.
“Since we started the Let’s Move! initiative, I’ve been looking for as many ways as possible to help families and kids lead healthier lives. I’ve come to realize that if we were going to take just one step to make ourselves and our families healthier, probably the single best thing we could do is to simply drink more water,” Obama said in a statement.
Water has many health benefits: It combats dehydration, which is one of the main causes of headaches; and it leads to healthier organs and better hair and skin.
Yet a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year found that 43 percent of adults drank less than four cups of water a day (half of the recommended eight cups), including 36 percent who drank one to three cups and 7 percent who drank none. Obama’s campaign is designed to turn those numbers around by touting the benefits of drinking water.
“We think that a positive, forward-leaning sort of visionary campaign to inspire people to drink more water is going to be the most effective way” to get people to drink more water, Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move, said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
He noted one study showed 25 percent of those 18 and under drink no water on a daily basis.
The campaign will be an across-the-board, all-out media effort. A public service announcement from the first lady will air on cable stations while print ads will appear in major publications. Also, a website — youarewhat youdrink.org — will be launched, and the effort will be pushed in social media with the hashtag #drinkH2O. Celebrities will use the hashtag on their Twitter and on Instagram accounts.
Kass said the effort is designed to “show everybody how simple it is to add a glass of water to your day.”
The use of celebrity power is part of the focus to run a positive and fun campaign, organizers said, instead of just touting the health benefits of drinking more water.
Kass described the first lady as “a water drinker from morning to night.”
He and Lawrence Soler, president and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America, said the first lady saw water consumption as a subject where she could have an impact.
Some studies show water consumption is up while soda consumption is down, even though sugary drinks still beat H20.
Beverage Digest reported in March that people drink an average of about 58 gallons of water per year, an increase of 38 percent from 1998. Meanwhile, consumption of soft drinks dropped from 54 gallons a year to 44 gallons a year.
“That’s the type of impact we’re glad to be seeing and we want to accelerate that,” Soler said.
He said Let’s Move has been effective in reducing childhood obesity rates.
Obama took credit last month when a CDC study showed that 19 states saw obesity rates decline among low-income preschoolers.”
“There are some positive signals in childhood obesity, but there is still work to do,” Soler said, adding that they thought pushing a positive message on water “would be the most effective.”
Kass said the campaign chose Watertown as a launching point because of its name.
“The reason we chose Watertown is because the first lady will be calling on every city and town to make their town a water town,” Kass said, noting that it “was voted two years in a row to have the best water in Wisconsin.”
“We thought this would be an awesome place to launch this initiative.”
The city is also the site of Wis-Pak Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of Pepsi-Cola and other soft drinks.
Kass shrugged off questions about the role of soda in Thursday’s event.
“Drink more water. That’s our only motivation for coming,” he said.
Major companies that produce bottled water and water filters — like Brita, Evian, and Poland Springs — will be at the event. Organizers said the companies would focus on the overall “drink more water message” instead of just focusing on drinking their brands.
In addition, Chicago, Los Angeles County and Houston are some of the cities that have signed up to have drink-more-water ads at bus stops and in municipal buildings.
“The breadth and scope of this is truly extraordinary,” Kass said.
-- This story was updated at 3:30 p.m.