Students will once again learn about the importance of healthy diet and regular exercise thanks to the relaunch of the Healthy Schools Programme, much of the materials and equipment for which have now been replaced after being destroyed during Hurricane Irma in 2017, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone announced on March 10 in the House of Assembly.
“Inadequate physical activity and unhealthy eating are two behavioural risk factors that contribute to chronic disease, which is identified as a significant health problem in the territory,” he said. “Public health research has long established the vital role of nutrition and physical activity as two essential aspects of a good school health programme.”
Healthy Schools is a joint venture between Mr. Malone’s ministry and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, which received support from multiple partners in relaunching the programme, he said.
Through the BVI Olympic Committee, he explained, the ministry formed an alliance with Sport for Life, a Canada-based agency aimed at promoting physical activity, which provided technical support for the “physical literacy” component, according to the minister.
The BVIOC also obtained a grant from Olympic Solidarity, an international organisation that provides assistance to all national Olympic committees, to purchase essential equipment for primary schools and preschools, to print educational material, and to conduct a communication campaign to promote the effort.
Mr. Malone also thanked partners including the Caribbean Public Health Agency for providing technical and financial support and Public Health England, which provided 20 scales for participating schools.
MHSD Permanent Secretary Petrona Davies provided funding to replace the educational material that was destroyed in Hurricane Irma, he said.
Mr. Malone stressed that good nutrition and regular physical activity are important not only for physical health but can help improve academic performance.
He added that that research from the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that physical activity contributes to students’ cognitive skills, attitude and academic performance and enhances concentration, attention and classroom behaviour. In addition, Mr. Malone said, research has shown that healthy diets rich in vegetables and fruits can help prevent obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers.
“Hence, I stress the importance of this initiative since it can help to improve our children’s health, which is also important with the treatment of Covid-19 as well,” he said. “So I encourage principals, parents and teachers to work together ton keep our students healthy.”
Government is finalising an updated memorandum of understanding between the two ministries to schedule health education, said the minister.
The MHSD will sign another MOU with the BVI Olympic Committee to continue its collaboration to the development of “physical literacy in school and at the community level,” he added.
Patrice Maduro, public health nutritionist in the Public Health Unit, will serve as the ministry’s new liaison officer to support the programme.