The Ministries of Health and Education have combined resources in an effort to promote healthy lifestyle practices among all school-aged children across the island.
Under a "health promoting schools" initiative, educational institutions will be empowered to facilitate healthy choices and the development of healthy behaviour among students.
The initiative was announced by Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson Monday September 3, during the launch of 'Caribbean Wellness Day 2012' at the Ministry’s downtown Kingston offices.
A health promoting school has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an institution, which strengthens its capacity as a healthy environment for living, learning and working. Health and education officials, teachers, teachers’ unions, students, parents, health providers and community leaders are united to in efforts to make the school a healthy place.“As such, it becomes a place where all members of the school community work together to provide students with integrated and positive experiences and a structure, which promotes and protects their health," the Health Minister explained.
He said the aim is to make all institutions in Jamaica health promoting schools. He informed that 60 schools across the island, including special education institutions, have been targeted under a pilot to guide the effective implementation of this initiative.
Data from some 3,000 questionnaires and administrative forms completed by students and principals, respectively, is now being analysed and the findings will be disseminated initially to the participating schools for identification of gaps and recommendations for improvements.
"We will then have a wider stakeholder consultation in an effort to garner commitment from across Jamaica in helping the Ministries of Health and Education in advancing the health promoting school agenda," the Minister said.
Already, the Government has been conducting a number of interventions on a national level to promote healthy living throughout local schools.
These include the formation of the National School Health Enhancement Committee, which is a joint committee forged between the Education and Health Ministries; the establishment of healthy lifestyle clubs in many schools and the continued work of the Health and Family Life Education Programme.
"This important development advances the work being done towards the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and is one which we will be highlighting throughout the month of September and beyond," Dr. Ferguson remarked.
Meanwhile, Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, in his remarks, welcomed the strides being made to promote healthy lifestyle in schools.
"I look forward to and thank the Minister of Health for being open to a relationship between the primary health care system and the entire school system,” he said.
"The nurse in the clinic and the medical officer of health in the parish and the teachers and principals need to have an ongoing relationship and there has to be an emphasis on health promotion rather than of diagnosis and curative measures for when illnesses occur,” he added.
Caribbean Wellness Day 2012 will be observed on September 8 under the theme: 'Healthy Schools make Healthy Communities that build Healthy Countries', and is being organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the National Health Fund (NHF).
Dr. Ferguson noted that the theme of ‘Caribbean Wellness Day’ this year is reflective of the focus being placed on the nation’s schools and young people.