As Jamaican youngsters and adolescents return to high school bodily after two years of on-line studying, their well being and security are a precedence for all – mother and father, caregivers, lecturers, college directors, authorities, and the personal sector. Steps have been taken by all these stakeholders to assist guarantee their secure return to face-to-face courses by way of protocols for masks carrying, social distancing, handwashing,and sanitisation.
To help improved studying outcomes, nevertheless, our youngsters want safer college environments that defend all elements of their well being. Significantly, this contains their diet. COVID-19 has exacerbated diet and well being challenges that existed for many years earlier than its onset. Low ranges of bodily exercise and consumption of enormous quantities of ultra-processed meals excessive in sugar, unhealthy fat and salt, together with restricted vegetables and fruit, have been driving up obese/weight problems and non-communicable illnesses (NCDs) in youngsters, adolescents, and adults in Jamaica. According to the Global School -Based Student Health Surveys in 2010 and 2017, over the previous decade, the speed of weight problems doubled amongst adolescent boys and elevated by nearly 50 per cent in adolescent ladies aged 13-17.
Sadly, because the pandemic unfolded, it grew to become clear that individuals who contract the virus and who’re additionally residing with weight problems or NCDs are at greater danger of significant sickness and even demise. At the identical time, youngsters’s consuming habits have been negatively affected by the virus. A examine carried out in 2020 by UNICEF and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) on the socioeconomic affect of COVID-19 discovered that almost all households reported will increase in youngsters’s degree of overeating (57 per cent). UNICEF’s Situational Analysis of Children 2021 famous that the mix of family revenue loss and the suspension of the school- feeding programme attributable to COVID-19 might result in elevated danger of malnutrition and consumption of cheaper processed meals with greater fats and sugar content material.
SHAPE EATING HABITS
The meals atmosphere in and round colleges influences our youngsters’s meals selections and helps form their consuming habits. The return to high school, subsequently, is a chance to create an atmosphere that helps them realise their proper to wholesome meals and good well being. Unfortunately, the present Jamaican college meals atmosphere requires a lot enchancment to help wholesome diets and bodily exercise and to guard youngsters from the advertising of unhealthy meals. Recent preliminary information from the JAMBAR (Jamaica and Barbados) Kids School Study, led by the Caribbean Institute for Health Research, confirmed a proliferation of unhealthy meals and pervasive advertising of those meals in our colleges.
Encouragingly, the Government of Jamaica made daring strides in 2019 with the implementation of the Interim Guidelines for Beverages in Schools. These pointers limit the sale of sweetened drinks which might be greater than set sugar content material limits. This ought to have been adopted by the completion of the National School Nutrition Policy and supporting Standards by the 2019-2020 college 12 months. School diet insurance policies can help good well being and academic outcomes by guaranteeing ample and equal entry to wholesome meals for all college students.
SEEMS TO HAVE HALTED
UNICEF is anxious that Jamaica’s progress on this space appears to have halted. Schools have reopened for face-to-face studying, however the National School Nutrition Policy has not been finalised, placing our youngsters’s well being and well-being at additional danger.
Unhealthy diets which might be missing in vitamins, nutritional vitamins, and minerals that youngsters have to develop and thrive put them in danger for poor psychological and bodily well being and poor academic outcomes, with longer-term impacts on weight problems and NCDs in later life. These main threats ought to encourage us to finalise the Nutrition Policy and work collectively as a society in the direction of its implementation to guard our youngsters.
In a 2019 Rapid Assessment of the School Nutrition Policy Environment within the area, the Healthy Caribbean Coalition highlighted Jamaica as one of many few Caribbean nations demonstrating medium political dedication to introducing college diet insurance policies. Significant and commendable work has already been finished by our Ministries of Education and Health through efforts to limit the consumption of sugary drinks in colleges and to provide a draft School Nutrition Policy.
Jamaica now has a possibility to advance these efforts, to maneuver past “medium” dedication, and to steer within the Caribbean by taking decisive motion to prioritise our youngsters and defend their well being and well-being. Let’s transfer ahead collectively in the direction of finalisation and implementation of the National School Nutrition Policy and supporting Standards for the 2022-2023 tutorial 12 months as we glance in the direction of restoration, resilience, constructing again, and bettering methods to assist our youngsters realise their rights to good well being and a superb schooling.
– Mariko Kagoshima is the nation consultant of UNICEF Jamaica. Send suggestions to [email protected].