Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Hundreds of Sharjah schools to adopt health-boosting programme

Initiative will measure physical activity, nutrition, mental health and physical safety in participating schools

A schoolgirl collects her lunch. Schools in Sharjah will work to improve nutrition among their pupils under the Healthy Schools scheme.
A schoolgirl collects her lunch. Schools in Sharjah will work to improve nutrition among their pupils under the Healthy Schools scheme.

Hundreds of schools in Sharjah will adopt a programme to boost pupil and teacher health “beyond the curriculum and classroom”.

The three-year Healthy Schools Programme will measure schools on 13 criteria, including physical activity, nutrition, mental health and physical safety, and seek to improve on those results through a variety of initiatives.

The programme was launched this week by the emirate’s Health Promotion Department and will target 185,000 pupils in 116 private schools, 111 public schools and 26 public nurseries.

“Health in schools must extend beyond the curriculum and the classroom to the entire school setting to create healthy school communities for all their members including pupils, teachers, staff, and parents,” said Iman Saif, director of the health promotion department.

She said the programme would help put the focus on health among school communities and prompt the “development of good practices”.

Schools must sign an agreement to take part in the programme, after which a team from the school will be assembled and trained on how to implement the scheme.

The programme falls under the World Health Organisation’s Health Promoting Schools initiative.

To be considered a healthy school, the institution must be a hazard-free building, provide a healthy environment for pupils and staff, promote exercise and have policies in place to prevent the spread of disease within the school through an inoculation programme.

Other criteria include a strict, school-wide non-smoking policy, special emergency and crisis response plans, and standards that focus on the health and safety of pupils such as sun protection, reducing obesity rates among children and adolescents and conducting periodic disease detection plans.

“Estimated death and disease rates among school-age children in the Eastern Mediterranean region show a clear need for health promotion, prevention and health-care services,” said Dr Ahmad Al Mandhari, director of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The Ministry of Health will support the programme through awareness campaigns aimed at schoolchildren.

“We will promote healthy eating habits, physical activities and encourage conducting periodic check-ups among pupils,” said Dr Hussein Al-Rand, undersecretary in the ministry's Health Assistant Sector, Health Centres and Clinics.

A study of 40,770 pupils from 100 schools, conducted in 2017 by the Sharjah Education Council’s Health Care Division, showed that 410 suffered from asthenia, 586 had asthma and 2,425 were obese.

Unhealthy food and a lack of exercise were the main causes behind an increase in the number of obese pupils from 2,406 in 2016 to 2,425 in 2017.

The survey also revealed that 357 pupils were anaemic and 74 were diabetic.

Updated: October 9, 2019 03:11 PM

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