8 in 100 children entering P1 are overweight

Among children entering Primary 1, about eight in 100 are overweight, revealed the Health Promotion Board (HPB) yesterday, based on last year's data.

To counter the trend, HPB yesterday launched a health promoting initiative targeted at preschools, which includes preparing balanced meals for children and appointing pupil health ambassadors.

HPB's chief executive, Mr Ang Hak Seng, said that being overweight means that a person is more at risk of Type 2 diabetes, and the number of children with this condition is on the rise.

HPB cited a study here that found that Type 2 diabetes accounts for up to a third of all childhood diabetes cases here.

This contrasts with 10 years ago, when it accounted for less than 10 per cent of childhood diabetes cases.

Through the initiative launched yesterday, called the Championing Efforts Resulting in Improved School Health (Cherish) Junior framework, HPB hopes to encourage healthy habits among children.

The framework is adapted from the World Health Organization's Health Promoting School concept.

Its launch event was held at the PCF Sparkletots' Hong Kah branch in Bukit Batok, which is one of 91 preschools which have applied to be a Cherish Junior preschool.

Preschools will be assessed based on criteria, such as their health-promoting policies and environment.

Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who was at the event, said: "Health promotion in early childhood goes a long way in preventing infectious diseases, and developing good health habits and self-esteem into adulthood."

She cited studies showing how dietary habits are formed before a child reaches five years of age, and these habits are difficult to change after they turn 11.

Under the newly launched initiative, HPB nutritionists will help schools put together menus with the four food groups in recommended proportions.

Madam Priscilla Toh, the principal of PCF Sparkletots Hong Kah, said: "Previously, (the proportions) would depend on how much the child could eat. If the child was a good eater, we would just top up with a second helping. But that is not healthy."

In the light of the recent epidemic of hand, foot and mouth disease, Dr Khor added that the Health Ministry will intensify spot-check efforts at childcare centres and kindergartens.

These will be extended to enrichment centres such as tuition centres and language schools.

nggwen@sph.com.sg


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