Feature
Behaviour Change Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Julia Manderson Steele (centre), engages students at the Clan Carthy Primary School in St. Andrew in ‘Jamaica Moves’ activities at the school.
Photo: Mark Bell

Story Highlights

  • Several educational institutions are reporting that the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme is having a positive impact on the health and general well-being of students.
  • The programme, which was introduced in 2017 by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is geared at heightening awareness and creating increased opportunities for physical activities and healthy eating at the nation’s schools.
  • Coordinator of the initiative at the Clan Carthy Primary School in St. Andrew, Alicia Duncan Williams, informs that the students are experiencing a “difference” since the school instituted the programme.

Several educational institutions are reporting that the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme is having a positive impact on the health and general well-being of students.

The programme, which was introduced in 2017 by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is geared at heightening awareness and creating increased opportunities for physical activities and healthy eating at the nation’s schools.

Coordinator of the initiative at the Clan Carthy Primary School in St. Andrew, Alicia Duncan Williams, informs that the students are experiencing a “difference” since the school instituted the programme.

“I have seen a difference. Even persons at the tuck shop are saying that water is being sold more than before. Students are drinking water more, and they understand that if they live a healthy lifestyle, effects of non-communicable diseases can be lessened,” she tells JIS News.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and in 2019, a National School Moves Day was instituted, to bring greater focus on the physical component of the programme.

It is also aimed at transforming the school environment into a healthy setting for learning and working. Schools have been encouraged to ensure sustainability of the programme, by planning and staging events to promote different types of physical activity.

“The Jamaica Moves initiative, I can say, has really improved the young people’s way of life,” Mrs. Duncan Williams adds.

Tuesdays are water days at the school, where no sugary drinks are sold. On Thursdays, fruits are promoted and sold at a minimum cost, while on Fridays, the school holds discussions on healthy foods, and physical activities.

Old Harbour High School in St. Catherine, which has established the Healthy Youth, Positive Energy (HYPE) Club, has earmarked various days for observing components of the programme.

“Things have changed tremendously. The students are gravitating more to the physical education, and the Club is making progress,” Coordinator, Sagine Wilson, tells JIS News.

“We want to have the entire school on board – students, staff and ancillary workers – and I want it to be a programme where we don’t have to demand students to move – they will come and enquire, and engage in at least five minutes of physical activity,” the Coordinator says.

Instructor for the Jamaica Moves Aerobics Club at the Portland-based Mount Pleasant Primary and Infant School, Stacey Ho-Young, tells JIS News that every day the school is involved with components of the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme, and students “look forward” to them.

“We have been in the community, and we take it to the streets, where we can meet the parents halfway. Some come to us too, and participate,” she says, adding that they have been staging in-house competitions.

Ms. Ho-Young says that very soon a parent cook-off will be held at the school, where the winners will be given trophies and medals for healthy breakfasts.

To supplement the Programme, the National Health Fund (NHF) provides a grant of $75,000 per annum that schools can access during the school year. The fund is broken down into three instalments of $25,000, which the educational institutions can apply for each term.

The funds must be used to support activities by the schools that facilitate the promotion of healthy eating, physical activity, and the sensitisation of the school population about Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

Schools can access the grant by obtaining the prescribed form at www.nhf.org.jm. Requests can be made by groups within the schools, such as Jamaica Moves Clubs, or clubs whose mandate is the promotion of healthy eating, physical activity and building awareness about NCDs.

Behaviour Change Officer at the Health and Wellness Ministry, Julia Manderson Steele, describes the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme as an “excellent way” to engage the young population in the schools and the school community, as children are the “real ambassadors” to sell the message to their parents.

Behaviour Change Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Julia Manderson Steele (left), participates in a physical activity with students at the Clan Carthy Primary School in St. Andrew. Observing (from left) are Teacher at the school, Natasha Forrest-Spence; Coordinator of the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme at the school, Alicia Duncan Williams; and Health Education Officer at the Kingston and St. Andrew Health Department, Moretta Lodge.

 

“We are very impressed with what we have been able to achieve across the island,” she says, adding that in each phase, they monitor the activities of 100 schools, where they are given marks for implementation of the initiative, and “we have made some real gains” in the promotion of healthy lifestyles, Mrs. Manderson Steele says.

A key objective of the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme is to tackle obesity in children, through the targeting of educators and parents on the critical role that they must play to decrease and eliminate harmful habits by children.

Under the initiative, regulations are also developed to ensure “healthier schools”, through the introduction of physical education after third form, and robust nutritional policies to guide concessionaries at schools on healthy meals for children.

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