Last summer, the UAE was declared the 5th fattest country in the world! The UAE Ministry of Health warned that the inactive lifestyle coupled with poor eating habits of children will make a large section of the population obese by the with the effect on health care being a primary concern. According to Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA:
Health education for school children is an important part of our public health strategy to ensure we have a healthier future for our children. The Dubai Household Health Survey conducted by the DHA shows that almost 60% of the population does not have sufficient fruits and vegetables to remain healthy and only 19% exercise to remain healthy.
This academic year, Nestlé Middle East has cooperated with the Dubai government to bring a Healthy Kids Program to life in Dubai. There are a number of local institutions on board with HRH Princess Haya Initiative for the Development of Health, Physical Education and School Sports, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Education Zone all deeply concerned and dedicated to changing the predicted outcome for today’s kids – so that they may escape a life of diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related diseases.
Today, health education has become part of the mandated curriculum in schools. From the destructive effect of smoking and drug abuse to how to live well and respect your body, kids are learning healthy habits. The research shows that educated kids grow up to be adults who:
- Take better care of themselves both physically and mentally
- Are better equipped to understand the concepts of susceptibility and risk
- Promote a healthy lifestyles by modelling good behaviours, and
- Are at lower risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (CVD)
The “Healthy Kids” programme will target 29 government schools over the next two years. This is a great start. Ramping up the program will require a real commitment and a collaborative effort from multiple stakeholders. So will the decision to monitor and evaluate the impact of the program before this generation reaches adulthood and it is too late!
Health education is a critical element to the overall development of children. It is essential to ensure that these kids are being given every opportunity to build the right wellness habits. As more and more decision makers invest time, money, people, curriculum, and a host of other resources in health education, it is important to ensure that the results are being closely followed.
For Nestlé Middle East, the Dubai Healthy Kids Program (Ajyal Salima ) helps them meet their Corporate Sustainability KPIs. With all the research that Nestlé conducts, is any of it supporting the monitoring of this program in Dubai? Is there an impact evaluation planned with the government of Dubai?
For Dubai, the KPIs are more serious … it is the safekeeping of its children.