ABU DHABI // Fatima College of Health Science has begun a project to provide health education classes in six of the emirate’s schools.
The project will focus on girls’ schools, said the college’s director, Russell Jones, because they are “where the future is”.
Reaching out to young women was more likely to affect the lives of the community around them in turn.
“The people who control the diet are women. The people who control the habits of their children, like exercise, tend to be women, especially in the early childhood years,” he said.
“In terms of lifestyle, it’s the women who provide the formal and informal education, how much TV to watch, what they should be eating.”
The Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) has now decided the topic should be given full subject status at the trial schools, which means pupils will have two 50-minute lessons in it each week.
The classes, at schools including Al Mawaheb Model School in Abu Dhabi and Al Danat School in Al Ain, focus on nutrition, biology and psychology. Pupils will debate topics including decision-making and lifestyle.
According to figures from Unicef, the UN Children’s Fund, one in eight children in the UAE is obese.
Since September, Adec has put in place strict rules that ban junk food including crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks from school canteens.
For now, the Fatima College project will reach 770 15-year-old pupils.
The most important audience, said Mr Jones, were the children in Al Ain.
“We chose them because we don’t want them to be ignored,” he said. “We know that the pattern from the US and UK is that many health initiatives are successful in the cities and then the rural areas lag behind.”