Take charge of your health!
ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary:
Hundreds of students from across the northeast travelled to Annotto Bay High School in St Mary last week as part of a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices.
The Healthy Youth Positive Energy (HYPE) School Tour is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, which utilises fun and interactive spaces to engage young people about the dangers of obesity, diabetes, and drug abuse.
Speaking at the event, Julia Manderson, a behaviour change and communications officer at the MoH, told Rural Xpress: "There are four main focus points for this particular campaign: healthy eating, the promotion of physical activity, getting the children to understand the importance of saying 'no' to drugs, and we are also looking at ways they can relieve stress.
"We're seeing a growing trend among our young people where they are presenting risk factors for lifestyle diseases because some of them are inactive and not eating healthily. So this is really to boost awareness and help students, the school population in general, and parents to make more informed choices."
Call to inspire
Principal at Annotto Bay High, Trudy-Ann Philip, praised the event's organisers and called on her fellow teachers and administrators to inspire the young people in their care to become more health conscious.
She said: "Foods that are fatty, oily, or have high sugar content can lead to things like obesity, so encouraging young people to eat healthily is important because they have more energy when they eat certain foods, and that contributes to the whole development of the body.
"Even before we were approached by the MoH, as a school, we have been looking at the nutrition levels of the students coming from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Some students feed on things like sodas and banana chips in the mornings, so we're eliminating some of that stuff from our tuck shops.
"We've also started selling fruits, hot beverages, and porridge in the morning. We have met with the vendors outside the school gate and they are on board because we want to produce individuals who are well rounded, not just academically, but mentally, physically, and socially."
The HYPE tour, which continues on Friday, February 10 at the Herbert Morrison High School in Montego Bay, features a range of activities designed to teach students how to take better care of themselves. However, Manderson insists that parents are also an integral part of the solution.
She explained: "The reality is parents don't want their children to die before they do, and what we are doing cannot happen if the parents are not on board, so it is a collaborative approach. They have a part to play in helping their children, family and themselves.
"While today we are focusing on the children and school community, this project is for everyone because we're also engaging parents and giving them ideas about how they can give their families healthy meals that are cost-effective."