Solomon Islands’ health environment for schools

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DEAR EDITOR, preparation was under way in Auki for the application of a MOU between the MEHRD and the MHMS setting out a planned “health environment for schools in the country,” according to the Island Sun newspaper featured article on Friday, April 13, 2018

The article went on to say that teachers from schools in the central region of Malaita were about to commence a weeklong training exercise in order to identify pressing health issues in local schools and to have the necessary knowledge to be able to pass on advice and guidance on health programmes to be introduced to schools.

I welcome the news of working towards a healthier school environment but am left wondering to what extent the planning will lead to the giving of correct nutritional advice to school children and their parents.

The increasing avoidance of traditional foods and the consumption of imported foods and drinks have led to a vast increase in non communicable diseases (NCD’s) starting from obesity and resulting in heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure in many people in the Solomon Islands, causing premature deaths in a number of instances.

I believe it should be important to incorporate nutritional advice in any envisaged school environmental plan.

A number of reviews of nutrition education programmes in developing countries have been undertaken in recent years. These have been valuable both to highlight difficulties which can occur and also to provide examples of good practice which can be shared.

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Pacific Island governments are increasingly aware that rapidly rising public expenditure on NCDs has a high opportunity cost in terms of resources that could have been allocated elsewhere, both health and non-health investment, such as rural roads and electricity generation.

In respect of the training of teachers in preparation for the launch of the proposed school environmental plan, I have to say that actually bringing about behaviour change depends on many factors – probably the most critical being having behaviour change as the clear aim of a programme.

The availability of trained personnel who understand and can implement behaviour change strategies appropriately, and who can involve learners in solving their own nutrition problems is essential.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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