Overweight kids in South African schools

One of the biggest health challenges currently faced by South Africa is obesity. More worryingly is the escalation of childhood obesity which is on a steady rise since the dawn of the new millennium. Currently, major causes of death and disability in the South Africa are related to obesity, mainly caused by poor diet and inadequate physical activity. 

Some specific diseases linked to poor diet and physical inactivity includes cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Recently the health department published a policy document entitled “Strategy for the prevention and control of obesity in South Africa�?. In the entirety of the document it singles out child obesity as a major problem which needs serious attention and should be addressed in learning institutions.

South African learners are some of the biggest consumers of fast foods and unhealthy foods stuffs globally. Through aggressive marketing tactics most fast food brands have been able to sell more than what our learners can consume. International fast food brands are entering the fast food industry in South Africa at a fast pace and increasing their outlets nationwide. For learners this might seem hard to resist, especially as it is entering some school tuck shops. Introduction of physical activity programs in schools is one ways we can reduce obesity. As educators and health professionals we have to come up with strategies and programs for learners which can help them make healthy lifetime decisions even after school and produce a lasting impact. But how? Below is a set of guidelines which can be used in learning institutions:

  • Ensure that healthy foods are available in schools and eliminate unhealthy food choices from tuck shops.
  • Guarantee that food and activity choices available in schools are culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate.
  • Provide health and nutrition education through wellness programs in schools.
  • Make health and nutrition education available to parents.
  • Ensure that wellness is a focus of every school day and that wellness programs are held year round.
  • Provide opportunities to actively engage in physical activity at school.

You might want to read more about how nutrition affects your child's learning and behaviour.