Schools are a perfect platform to invest in future adult citizens, as well as in the national human capital with strong mental, physical, and intellectual capabilities. For that reason, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) has organized a press conference today to help promote health and wellness programs across schools.
During his opening speech, Dr. Amer Alkindi, Health and Wellness Division Manager at ADEC, spoke about impact of school health on improving academic performance, “A healthy body means a healthy mind. Healthy students definitely perform better in education. That is why we are welcoming long-term partnerships with various private and public entities to help raise awareness regarding health and wellness, and come up with different ideas and initiatives to help promote healthy habits across schools,” said Dr. Alkindi.
During the press conference, which took place at the Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, representatives from Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), academic institutions, social development organizations and public and private sector organizations in Abu Dhabi were encouraged to partner with ADEC in implementing health promotion programs in schools.
“Students spend the majority of their time at school that is why schools are the logical place to provide programs for improving health and education outcomes. It is our duty as a community to come together and protect our youth through promoting health related issues such as obesity prevention, healthy eating and nutrition, student behavior (bullying), tobacco and substance abuse prevention, and oral health,” said Dr. Alkindi.
Statistics on school health deserves a particular attention: almost forty percent of teenagers in Abu Dhabi public and private schools are overweight, compared to about fifteen percent in the USA or twenty percent in China. About sixty percent of teenage boys in Abu Dhabi schools, compared to fifty percent in USA and 21 percent in China, were bullied one or more times during the academic year. School health and education outcomes significantly depend on the parental involvement, however, only a half of the parent’s population really knew what their teenagers were doing with their free time most of the time during the past 30 days (Global School-based Student Health Survey, 2010). Research shows that school health requires innovative and coordinated policies and programs.
According to ADEC’s Health and Wellness Division Manager, children with poor health are more likely to perform poorly in school and miss school than those with good health. He added: “Overweight students are absent more days than their non-overweight peers; children with emotional disorders also experience poorer academic outcomes. In short, healthy children learn better. Through the School Health Promotion Initiative, ADEC will identify suitable health program proposals and funding sources and will provide support to organizations that have the technical capability and the commitment to implement these health programs in schools.”
Based on ADEC’s strategic plan 2009 – 2018 to ensure health, safety, and wellbeing of students in schools, the council is currently involved in providing students with health education (health curriculum development), physical education and activity (weekly physical education classes and extracurricular student activities), school health services for students, safe physical environment (school building upgrade, design and development), encouraging healthy eating in schools and setting policies related to school health.
Prior to the press conference, over 500 Principals and Vice Principals from across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi were invited to attend a health and wellness policy orientation session, where attendees were updated on policies as a guide in daily operations and decision making in health-related aspects including emergency care, first aid, individualized health care plan for students with chronic conditions, and immunization and health screening programs.
ADEC has also introduced Principals and Vice-Principals to the new Communicable Disease Control and Outbreak Management policy. Developed in consultation with ADEC’s external and internal stakeholders, the new policy aims to ensure that schools have protocols in place to prevent and control the transmission of communicable diseases in schools, provide an efficient response to a disease outbreak, and minimize the adverse impact of these events on student’s education.