Is your school healthy?
The School term has just begun. Children will now spend more time at school than anywhere else, except when they are at home. Schools can have a major effect on children’s health. Schools can teach children about health, and promote healthy behaviours. Physical education classes give children a chance to get exercise that they may not get at home. Schools can also be a place where children find support to overcome psychosocial issues that they may be faced with.
It is important that schools focus not only on academic content, but help in preventing risky behaviours, such as alcohol and tobacco use, unsafe sex, bullying etc. By incorporating these topics into teaching material, or by having specials sessions or support personnel, students are able to learn about these topics and they are also able to overcome peer pressure and to say no when they confront these risky and unsafe behaviours.
The school environment should also encourage healthy habits, like exercise and healthy eating. School authorities should ensure that students get sufficient exercise. Physical education should be an integral part of the curriculum and students should be taught the importance of physical activity in preventing diseases. Healthy eating is also important. Children should be provided with, or they should bring healthy meals to schools. Schools should discourage the sale of unhealthy foods on or near their compound. Health promotion materials should be displayed and made available to remind and encourage children of the importance of physical activity and eating healthy.
The provision of dental health education for children is also important and is recommended. This should be part of the primary school curriculum.
Schools should also be able to deal with specific health problems in students, such as asthma, obesity and infectious diseases. Teachers must understand the common diseases that are faced by students and to be familiar with basic response strategy to be able to lend support when students are ill.
The school building and environment should be a safe and healthy place. All children must be protected from harm and injury. Learning must be safe.
I wish all our children a safe and healthy school term.
Dr. Rosmond Adams, MD is a medical doctor and a public health specialist with training in bioethics and ethical issues in medicine, the life sciences and research. He is the Head of Health Information, Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). (The views expressed here are not written on behalf of CARPHA).