The Ministry of Education and Youth remains committed to encouraging and promoting healthy nutrition and regular exercise among students, to minimise the incidence of obesity.
This assurance comes from Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, who notes research indicating the prevalence of obesity among individuals, particularly youngsters.
Speaking during activities marking National School Moves Day, at Ferncourt High in St. Ann on April 29, Mrs. Williams said data from a 2017 Global School Health Survey showed that 65 per cent of children, 13 to 17 years, were overweight while 26 per cent were considered obese.
She further referenced the findings of a 2016-2017 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey which, she said, indicated that one in two, or 54 per cent, of overall Jamaicans were pre-obese or obese.
Mrs. Williams said healthy lifestyle habits, such as being physically active and eating well, have proven to yield long-term dividends, adding that good nutrition is “one of the cornerstones for enhancing learning.”
She noted that, over the years, the Ministries of Education, and Health and Wellness, have partnered to develop polices and public education programmes tailored to provide more nutritious options for youngsters from the early childhood to high school levels.
The Minister said parents as well as teachers and school administrators have been engaged in the process, “in recognition of [the fact that] there must be a holistic approach in addressing this challenge [obesity].”
Mrs. Williams said while hereditary and cultural norms were among the factors rendering children more susceptible to developing obesity, changes in lifestyle habits have also been influential.
As such, she welcomed this year’s staging of the National School Moves Day Initiative.
This, the Minister said, “against the background of us coming out of the more serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and [the resulting] reduced physical activity and physical exercise programmes that children normally engage in while at school, and even in their communities.”
Mrs. Williams said the initiative, which forms part of the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme, aims to encourage children to be physically active, and provides an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of doing so.
She added that Jamaica Moves in Schools was an early intervention programme, and among those designed to ensure that children participate in a minimum amount of physical activity daily, en route to creating overall healthier lifestyles.
“We are happy to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Association of Principals and Vice Principals of Secondary Schools, and the Jamaica Association of Primary and Infant Schools to encourage a healthier lifestyle among our [student] population,” Mrs. Williams stated.
She added that while COVID-19 had severely impacted the programme’s implementation, “we are committed to renewing the efforts to achieve the desired results, including encouraging children to get moving about, even in their own home environments.”