Diet & Fitness
Thursday, 19 February 2009 05:35
By Debbie Francis
The Medical Benefits Scheme is seeking to enhance the health of students in Antigua and Barbuda through its Physical Activity and Nutrition (PAN) project.
Communications and Marketing Manager Janelle Charles-Williams says the PAN Project is a series of activities and programmes geared at stimulating increased physical activity and improved dietary habits through school and community-based interventions.
The PAN Project was devised by a mini-task force commissioned by the Scheme. It was comprised of staff from the Ministry of Education, with significant support from the Ministry of Health.
This followed the MBS's release of startling data on the detection of type II diabetes in children in Antigua and Barbuda in January 2008.
Charles-Williams says, "All these diseases are lifestyle related, and proper nutrition and exercise can help in prevention and control.
It would be a shame to have a set of smart students graduating and they are not healthy."
All school-based activities received the approval of the chief education officer, and are either physical activity based or nutrition based in focus.
Charles-Williams says the projects would include a hike and bike adventure, nutrition peer counselling, a lunch kit campaign for preschoolers, a nutrition jingle contests, a poster contest, a dollar-smart healthy recipe competition and a dollar-smart cookbook.
"The dollar recipe competition is designed to debunk the notion that you have to have a lot of money to eat healthy," Charles-Williams explains.
"In December, we launched the primary individual skipping rope competition after we met with the principals, and we distributed hundreds of skipping ropes to all the government and private schools to have a competition, about 40 schools participated."
The National Skipping Rope Competition is open to all primary and secondary school students, in several categories, such as Dutch, regular and speed skipping. This will be held on April 2, with a Dutch rope demonstration already held to boost interest.
She says students have embraced the PAN Project, "and we are so pleased with the turnout in the past, not only with the skip rope project, but the cheering as well has been tremendous."
Charles-Williams says the project is seeking to boost healthy lifestyles not only among youths, but parents as well, as they are being encouraged to lead by example.
"If parents are using sweets during a meal, they should make it balanced," she suggests. "Things like ice cream should not be used as extra treats, they should be factored into the nutritional needs of the child. They (parents) should make healthy eating and exercise a part of regular family activities."
Students were asked to write reports which will be reviewed and put forward for implementation.