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Make physical activity compulsory in schools – health minister

Make physical activity compulsory in schools – health minister
Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Luke Browne

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While the school setting is the natural place to start with the fight against Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) and other health issues, the approach that some schools take to physical activity and physical education is baffling.

Last Friday, Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Luke Browne spoke about the lacklustre way in which a lot of schools deal with Physical Education (PE).

The Health Minister said that during his days at school, PE was a once a week activity and you would sometimes hear a teacher say if the students were not well behaved, PE would be cancelled.

He noted that while he has seen a lot of literature encouraging people, including young students to walk a mile a day, the schools are not setting the pace for physical activity.

“Some teachers treat PE as it is just an academic subject, so they sit down in the classroom and talk about PE and that is not what is necessary. That is not going to help us with physical literacy and not what is going to help us with movement and that is certainly not what is going to help us with the fight with Non-Communicable Diseases”, said Browne.

The minister said that he has known of instances where schools have gone without having school sports for years and that is wrong.

“There are students who are athletes and do not take to the academics but on the field of play, they cannot be tamed, they just excel, so we need to make a big push to make sure that physical activity is a push in the schools,” Minister Browne said while adding that he would like an Act to make physical activity compulsory in schools.

The health minister said he is pushing for more physical activity not only in schools, but also in the workplace, in the communities, at home and in the various ministries and private companies.

He added also that in many instances, the consumption of the wrong type of foods is what drives NCDs so something also must be done about that.

“There is no regulation on drinks in and around schools. There is restriction on what the tuck shop will sell but we have to do more in that direction because when we make these things available then our children might grow up thinking it is acceptable.

“…and they might see they looking a little chubby and you know ‘Chubby’ is the name of one of the offending products as well, and they don’t know this is tied to their consumption but you have to look at the type of sugar and it is good to reduce the sugar,” stressed Browne.

He said that as health minister, these are problems he is trying to solve but inactivity and the consumption of unhealthy foods seem to be a culture that is accepted.

He noted that as a government, they have placed even more taxes on offending substances like tobacco, alcohol and aerated beverages.

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