DUBAI // Schoolchildren will be taught the dangers of leading unhealthy lifestyles in an effort to reduce the country’s obesity and diabetes problems.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health launched a training programme for more than 470 school nurses to deliver healthcare lessons in Government schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Children as young as five will be taught the importance of key health messages, including the benefits of taking exercise, eating healthy food, washing hands and staying hydrated.
Dr Hussein Al Rand, undersecretary of the ministry’s health assistant sector, said the programme would change the way pupils were taught about their own well-being.
“If students know about diabetes and the problems with fast food and lack of exercise, they can make choices to take care of themselves,” he said.
“The UAE is one of the countries where diabetes is a major problem, we will present this information to children so we can help tackle the problem at a young age.”
Data from the International Diabetes Federation shows almost 804,000 people in the UAE are diabetic, about 19 per cent of the population, ranking the country 16th on the global prevalence list.
The World Health Organisation ranked the UAE 22nd for global obesity, with about 33 per cent of the population in that category. These are two issues being addressed by the MoH in schools under the new Health Education Guide.
Nurses will be trained in how to deliver the advice to the pupils. A uniform approach will be taught via a pre-prepared CD so they can deliver lessons on a variety of health topics.
The learning will be made fun with interactive lessons, short films and cartoons, and the use of games and iPads.
Children will also be taught how to shop for healthy foods and how to read nutritional labelling on products.
Pupils will be assessed before and after lessons throughout the school year to assess their level of understanding.
Half of all educational nurses, one in each Government school, will be trained by the end of this academic year, with the remainder receiving their tuition before the end of 2017.
There are plans to translate the lessons into English so they can be used in private schools.
Dr Najla Hussain Sajwani, head of school section at the MoH, said the UAE is the first GCC country to adopt this kind of programme.
“The current situation needs improving,” she said. “We don’t have data on how much children know about healthy living, but with this guide we will have a pre and post-evaluation so we will know what they have learnt.
“This is about teaching them to make healthier informed decisions for themselves in future.”