In recent months, children’s health and lifestyle issues have made alarming news in the Cayman Islands.
It has become clear that society’s approach to improving children’s health and well-being is of utmost importance.
A recent front page story in The Observer highlighted these issues.
Paediatrician Dr. Marilyn McIntyre of Cayman Islands Hospital Cayman said: ‘The diet and activity level of the community as a whole has changed completely.
‘Now the kids sit in front of the TV; they play computer games; they are not particularly active. Overweight kids try to avoid sports because of low self confidence and fear of ridicule.
‘They won’t take part, they get depressed, and then you get comfort eating. It’s a vicious circle.’
King’s Sports Centre and Cayman Sports Authority have introduced an innovative school fitness programme designed to assist the public school system with physical education programmes in addition to expanding access to fitness opportunities to children.
The two organisations are in a unique position to offer this programme to Cayman’s youngsters by offering use of facilities during their off-peak rates. The programme will fall in-line with the national curriculum, as set by the Ministry of Education.
The programme is ready to begin next month. It will cater to all branches of Cayman’s public school system, including primary, secondary and special education schools.
King’s Sports Centre and Cayman Sports Authority have liaised with several sporting associations to enable a variety of services that can be offered during the school system’s physical education schedule.
Dr. Pedro Reimon, a paediatric weight management expert, said in the Observer: ‘Schools need to start seeing physical education and academic performance in complementary terms.
‘A fit child is going to learn and do better in school. Once those kids gain weight, they don’t perform well in school; they don’t sleep well at night; a lot of them have sleep apnoea.
‘They can’t concentrate at school and they get labelled as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (known commonly as ADHD)’.
Two months ago, CSA ran a trial phase of the school fitness programme with Savannah Primary and John Gray High School.
The Savannah Primary trial hosted a large group aerobics class in two one-hour sessions per week. Three professional trainers conducted each class; guiding students through stretching, balance, and cardiovascular routines.
The high school trial brought Year 10 John Gray students to King’s where they participated in an array of activities, including five-a-side football, aerobics, yoga, and self-defence.
CSA director Ray Singh said: ‘Teachers also attended the trials, both as participants and as counsellors. They were impressed with the increased stamina and endurance of the children at the end of the programme as well as increased energy level during the sessions.’
Singh also organised a recent volleyball tournament for John Gray pupils that included a $1,000 donated by CSA for a beach cleaning project.
Singh added: ‘The trial programme has received positive feedback throughout the Islands including frequent visits by parents, school officials, and other members of government, including Dwayne Seymour.
‘Future programme funding will be derived through several community fundraisers in conjunction with the Save Our Youth Foundation (soon to be known as Cayman Youth Development Foundation) in addition to corporate support. Contributions will help secure facilities, provide coaching and training, supply equipment and programme administration. Cayman Sports Authority does not intend to require direct funding from Government to facilitate this programme.’
‘A fit child is going to learn and do better in school. Once those kids gain weight, they don’t perform well in school; they don’t sleep well at night; a lot of them have sleep apnoea.’ DR PEDRO REIMON