The children’s health task force Health4Youth programme has kicked off the New Year at John Gray and Clifton Hunter High Schools.
“The Health4Youth nutrition team has been very busy working with the school canteens, Mise En Place, teachers, parents and students with the implementation of the standards for food provisions,” said Maureen Cubbon, PR and fund raising coordinator.
“Like any change, it has been met with challenges, but the team is working on an education campaign within the schools and working with parents to help bridge any gaps and hopefully make the positive changes to eating habits that need to happen in the schools,” said H4Y Programme Coordinator Sue Rajah.
“It’s important for people to understand that the changes have come out of necessity with the health and wellness of the youth of Cayman as the focus,” she said. “It was collaborative effort between the Children’s Health Task Force and the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education.”
The Health4Youth programme was originally created by a variety of organisations in the Cayman Islands that are committed to the general well-being of the Cayman community.
The core committee is made of members for the Cayman Heart Fund, Generali Worldwide, TrinCay Medical and the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.
The goal of the programme is to create a holistic approach to fighting childhood obesity by working with a pilot group of students in the 2009-2010 Year 7 class at George Hicks Campus, which is now John Gray.
Some 175 children out of approximately 400 were identified in the Year 7 class in the 85 percentile and 95 percentile of Body Mass Index.
A total of 146 students were actively engaged in the programme through the school year, which included nutritional counselling, medical support and an after school exercise programme.
The plans for the coming months include psychological assessments, continued nutrition sessions for the children in the programme, and supporting the existing curriculum in the schools that focus around health.
An extensive in-school education campaign is planned to help educate the students and teachers about the new foods served in the canteen.
Medical assessments and measurements will continue also through the rest of the year.
“Poor childhood nutrition can have lasting effects, impairing cognitive development and school performance,” said Education Minister Rolston Anglin. “This is our opportunity to make a measurable difference in student health and well-being. Research consistently shows that children who eat healthier meals perform better academically and are absent from classes less often.”
The Health4Youth programme is in year two of its third year.
After two years of collecting data and reporting back on the results of the programme, the third year will focus on working with the Government and schools to support a change in mind set in the Cayman Islands about health and wellness, especially pertaining to the school environment.
“In our first year of the H4Y programme, the task force and the local paediatricians headed by Dr. Cridland had worked very hard to obtain parameters like BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol level, glucose level, insulin level, etc, that are predictors of chronic diseases in this group of at-risk children in the 85th to 95th percentile,” said Dr. Sook Yin, medical director for the task force.
“The results were startling to us as we have identified children as young as 12 years-old here in the Cayman Islands who are showing signs of developing diabetes and hypertension, two major chronic diseases that in the past was perceived as an old people disease,” he said. “The community must come together to support the national food policy for school canteens that has been implemented to serve healthier and more nutritious meals to school children or we will have a generation of young adults in a decades’ time who will be a burden to our healthcare system.”