Partners unite to fight childhood obesity


16-March-2012

During a half-day workshop held recently at the STC conference room, stakeholders from the mentioned organisations and other concerned parties like head of school councils met to Minister Mondon addressing guests and delegates at the workshopdiscuss ways they can better work together to intensify their action to improve nutrition in the school environment in order to fight obesity among school children.

The minister responsible for Education, Macsuzy Mondon, launched the discussion.
Addressing those taking part in the workshop, Mrs Mondon said the increase in childhood obesity here is worrying.

Figures from the Ministry of Health show that last year the prevalence of overweight (including obesity) was 18.1% in boys and 19.4% in girls and the prevalence of obesity was 7.4% in boys and 8.0% in girls.   Mrs Mondon said while the Ministry of Education is concerned about the reduced self-esteem and psycho-social health of the obese children, the Ministry of Health is also alarmed by the figures and the other associated health risks.

Guests and delegates at the workshop

Mrs Mondon said there is a need to look seriously at what the school tuck shops sell and also the food brought onto the school compound.

“Children are vulnerable and warrant protection from society as they do not have nutritional knowledge and are unable to perceive the risks of their behaviour,” said Mrs Mondon.

She called for a national campaign for major changes to food and beverage advertising on television.

She said the pressure for market liberation means regulatory approaches are more difficult to achieve but she stressed that she will ensure all recommendations of the workshop will be taken to the cabinet for further action.

Also present at the workshop were the contestants for the forthcoming Miss Seychelles Island beauty pageant. They will help promote the campaign through healthy life styles.

Mrs Mondon thanked them for the initiative of being role models for the youngsters.

Public health commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon, said improving nutrition in the school environment alone will not be enough to tackle the problem of obesity in children as there are many other major issues to tackle outside the school walls in the community and in the homes.

But he noted that the school is a good place to start as it is where children spend a lot of their time and where some behaviours are learned and moulded .

“More than ever before the sale and marketing of junk foods and sweet, low nutritional value energy drinks manufactured both locally and abroad is rife. But do we need them?” asked Dr Gedeon.

He said we cannot continue to allow our children to be slowly poisoned by these kinds of drinks and foods.

“It may prove to be difficult to remove all the unhealthy products on the market but through proper corrective measures such as increased taxes, customs and quality control Dr Gedeon making a presentationand a lot of parental education on alternative food choices we will make a head way,” he said.

Dr Gedeon said contrary to popular beliefs, healthy food choices do not cost more.
He gave as example the fact that many parents prefer to give their children money to buy burgers and fatty chicken and chips instead of eating a healthy lunch at school at just R2 a plate.

During the workshop those taking part also heard several presentations, among them the recommendations of the Convention on the Rights of the child, the consequences of childhood obesity and the need for public health intervention, the national school nutrition policy and the current situation of childhood obesity in Seychelles.

M-A.L.

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