The Ministry of Health is hoping to get the support of the Education Ministry to make it mandatory for students to engage in physical activity beyond second form.
Nurse Valerie Williams, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Coordinator in the Health Ministry said Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child which mandates children be engaged in physical activity.
“Unfortunately, in all government schools, with the exception of Barbuda, physical activity is only mandatory up to second form and so with the [Football Against Obesity programme] we are hoping to show the authority that we really need to expand the physical activity throughout the school system,” she said yesterday.
Nurse Williams noted that the Health Ministry cannot go at it alone and the buyin of the education ministry is pivotal to the success of any school-based initiatives.
“We are looking at having an obesity policy in Antigua, we are also looking at the school environment for having the obesity policy within the school. Unfortunately, that is something that we really want the Ministry of Education to come on board with. We look at our school environment, what are we offering the children, look at the cafeteria and look at the lunches … we [are partnering] with government and the private [sector],” she said.
The Rotary Club of Antigua Sundown agreed to install industrial drinking fountains and filtration systems to remove impurities from pipe borne water at 18 schools at a cost of $160,000.
The initiative forms part of the Obesity Prevention Programme which the Ministry of Health is pushing to reduce the incidence of NCDs.
Meanwhile, employees are being asked to allow their workers to take at least one hour off work today, to engage in some form of exercise.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness is observing Caribbean Wellness Week which is being held under the theme “Healthy Communities: Preserving the Workforce”, which urges individuals to be healthy and to stay healthy. Some of the activities planned include Water Wednesday when people are encouraged to drink only water, then Soca-robics at the Rising Sun Cricket Grounds from 4.45 pm.
On Friday, the ministry will host a health talk in the square at its headquarters on lower High and Long streets beginning at 9:30 a.m.