Schools need better portion control in the battle against the bulge, Dubai health official says

Some pupils have obesity-related diseases more commonly seen in middle-aged people

Obese young Chinese students stand in line during an exercise at a summer camp in Zhengzhou city, central China's Henan province, 14 July 2015.

Summer camps for helping obese children lose weight are held across China though many parts of the country are scorched by heat waves. Obesity is a troublesome headache for China as a growing number of adults and children are facing overweight due to unhealthy diets and lack of exercises. "The obesity rate among adults was 11.9 percent in 2012, a rise of 67.6 percent from 2002, and 6.4 percent among children and adolescents, a rate tripling that of 2002", said a statement issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC).
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Schools must look at portion control to ensure pupils aren't eating themselves into early health problems, a health official has said.

Dubai Municipality said schools are gradually getting the message when it comes to serving healthier food - but said quality and quantity needs to be looked at next.

The authority's 'Person-in-Charge' drive means every school needs one member of staff who is tasked with driving the push for healthy choices.

About seven in 10 have one already but the system is a work in progress.

“We are trying to get the persons-in-charge assigned by schools and ensure they can make decisions about the menus," said Jehaina Al Ali, head of the applied nutrition unit at the municipality's Food and Safety Department.

"We are creating new training programmes for 'persons in charge' and the decision makers in the schools to help them promote healthier eating.”

She said the training will be piloted in July.


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“Obesity and diabetes rates are very high among children, and some pupils are suffering from hypertension. We see kids having these diseases, as if they are in their forties or fifties.

“Now, we are looking further into the quality of the food that needs to be portion controlled,” she added.

The municipality is visiting schools to ensure they are implementing guidelines and is working to find out about challenges they are facing.

They are also meeting with catering companies to ensure guidelines can be implemented by September.

“Pupils spend a large amount of their day in the school and they need proper nourishment so that they are able to learn. We have to make sure they avoid the processed food dominant in the diet here, and eat the required fruit and vegetable portions,” said Ms Al Ali.

In April, Dubai Health Authority, said schools would have to encourage pupils to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and set physical education classes at 150 minutes per week.

Last year, schools were again told to change their canteen menus in an attempt to control rising childhood obesity levels.