x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Anti-obesity campaign reports success

After success of previous programmes, the Ministry of Health hopes to expand its healthy eating programme to more schoolchildren.

DUBAI // Programmes to counter obesity in schoolchildren are being stepped up after promising results from initiatives in Dubai and Ajman over the past years, a nutrition specialist said yesterday.

The importance of a healthy lifestyle was highlighted during a seminar yesterday attended by 120 people including medical practitioners from Ministry of Health hospitals and primary healthcare centres, nurses as well as health educators and school health employees.

"Many people lack knowledge and awareness about good nutrition and how to implement a balanced diet," said Dr Ashraf Nazmy, a nutrition specialist at the ministry's health education department.

Dr Nazmy said that in the 2009- 2010 academic year, the Ministry of Health had implemented an initiative at nine schools across Dubai, with 153 participants, and at six schools in Ajman with 144 participants. Results for the current academic year were not yet available. Dubai and Ajman will each have two new schools included in the programme in the 2011-2012 academic year.

The comprehensive and rigorous programme involves school nurses, nutritionists, teachers, physical education trainers and parents to ensure a successful result.

A total of 39.5 per cent weight loss was achieved among participants in Dubai, while Ajman recorded a 45.7 per cent drop out of the pool of 144 participants.

"Secondary school pupils had the greatest success in terms of weight loss," Dr Nazmy said.

To ensure that the younger pupils received additional support at home, parents were encouraged to get involved and to attend lectures on nutrition. Every pupil from within the target group followed a personalised health plan and participated more in team sports.

"One of the boys at a secondary school who once weighed 101kg managed to shed 33kg. Another lost 44kg and went from 130kg to 86kg," said Dr Nazmy.

Dr Dalia Haroun, a representative of Unicef, discussed the important role of schools and school nurses in preventing and helping to reduce the rate of childhood obesity.

Dr Haroun said Unicef was hoping to introduce phase two of their three-month Fat Truth Campaign, which was introduced in April 2009 and created a great deal of publicity on childhood obesity.

"We have done the awareness part of it and now we want to take action," said Dr Haroun. "With this programme, we will be able to evaluate what the schools are doing and to provide more training."

The new initiative will be called the Co-ordinated School Health Programme and will target the school nurses, family and other key individuals at the school.

Dr Haroun said they hoped to begin during the coming academic year and expected to start with four schools in Dubai.

In his opening speech, Dr Mahmood Fikri, assistant undersecretary for health policies at the Ministry of Health, said a national nutrition strategy was being prepared in collaboration with UAE University and international organisations in order to develop anti-obesity programmes for schoolchildren.

The Ministry of Health will also launch a cartoon-based programme about healthy eating habits in all mass media soon.