Letter of the Day | Make PE mandatory in high schools
THE EDITOR, Sir:
We note with great concern in The Sunday Gleaner of July 3 that the minister of education has dismissed the call for physical education to be mandatory for all students.
Childhood obesity is on the rise in Jamaica, and lack of physical activity and unhealthy nutrition both play major roles in its development. During the five to seven years of high school, children develop habits, as well as physical and mental characteristics, which will mark them for the rest of their lives.
Academic work in school is very important, and participation in physical activity (which does not have to be competitive sport)
has been found to be positively related to academic performance in children. An unbridled epidemic of the non-communicable diseases (NCDs), fuelled by obesity, could eliminate the gains associated with improved education.
Childhood obesity can only be solved by a multisectoral, all-of-society approach in which the Ministry of Education has a crucial role to play. This was clearly outlined in the Ministry of Health's National Strategic and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases in Jamaica 2013-2018, which was approved by Parliament. The strategic plan called for the promotion of physical activity and the development of a national policy that mandates physical education from early childhood to at least grade 11.
The National Strategic Plan also called for the establishment of a National Non-Communicable Disease Commission, which would plan and coordinate the comprehensive prevention and control of chronic NCDs. We urge the minister of health to work towards establishing the commission as soon as possible to facilitate the stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, working together to tackle the NCD epidemic.
We believe that the National NCD Commission must exist and operate at a level above all ministries and should report to the prime minister. This will facilitate its role in galvanising all government ministries and departments, as well as all stakeholders across the society, building consensus around effective policies and programmes.
We hope that the minister of education will reconsider his position and allow for the dispassionate examination of the evidence that will guide the decision-making so that all objectives for growth and development can be achieved.
Heart Foundation of Jamaica