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Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says the Government is looking to make physical education (PE) mandatory for all school-aged children, in an effort to further encourage health and wellness in schools.

Rev. Thwaites said this will ensure that physical education is no longer “an optional extra, but a necessary part of the school experience." 

"By the end of November, I’m promised that we will have for (the scrutiny of the Ministry of Health) a comprehensive programme for the emphasis on physical education in schools," he noted.

Rev. Thwaites made the announcement during the launch of ‘Caribbean Wellness Day’, at the Ministry of Health’s downtown Kingston offices, on September 3.

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 Ministries of Health, and Education, and the National Health Fund (NHF).

Meanwhile, the Ministries of Health, and Education have also combined resources in an effort to promote healthy lifestyle practices among all school-aged children across the island.

The programme, which is dubbed the 'Health Promoting Schools Initiative’, is geared towards empowering schools to facilitate healthy choices and the development of healthy behaviour from a young age.

Under the programme, areas to be addressed include nutrition, physical activity, mental health, substance abuse, environmental health, violence and injury prevention, and reproductive health.

Director, Health Promotion and Protection Unit, Dr. Kevin Harvey, informed that childhood obesity is already an epidemic in some countries, and is on the rise in most others, with an estimated 22 million children under five estimated to be overweight worldwide.

He informed that worldwide, obesity in adolescents and children of all ethnicities has increased nearly two-fold over the past 10 years.

Dr. Harvey noted that this is an important health concern for all governments, as childhood and adolescent obesity has both immediate and long-term health impacts.

"Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. They are also more likely to become overweight adults and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type-two diabetes, strokes and several types of cancers,” he pointed out.

Dr. Harvey suggested that healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.