More schools to get in-house health adviser

More schools to get in-house health adviser

A health programme that has helped hundreds of students to lose weight, stop smoking and lead healthier lives will be expanded to 50 secondary schools, three Institutes of Technical Education (ITE) and five polytechnics by 2018.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB), which is spearheading the programme, said it would also help reduce the rate of obesity and other diseases in Singapore in future.

"Healthy habits acquired during childhood and adolescence have a greater likelihood of following through to adulthood," the agency said.

"Since children and the youth spend a significant proportion of their time in school, schools are critical... in the formation of healthy habits and behaviours."

The HPB's Student Health Adviser programme was started in 2010 in eight secondary schools.

Nurses were placed there to provide health advice and counselling to students who were overweight, smoked or had other health issues.

Over the two-year pilot, about 30 per cent of more than 500 severely overweight students lost weight after attending a weight management programme.

The three-session course included tips on how to cultivate healthy eating habits, eat the right portion sizes, read food labels and stay active.

"Feedback from the students also revealed that they found the initiative useful for improving their health and felt comfortable approaching the advisers for help on health-related matters," said HPB director of school health and outreach division K. Vijaya.

The pilot programme's encouraging results led HPB to expand it to four additional secondary schools and two ITEs last year.

The 2018 target is expected to cover all ITEs and polytechnics in Singapore.

Sales coordinator Esther Yap, 47, whose son is in Secondary 2 at East Spring Secondary School in Tampines, welcomed the programme.

"Teenagers like to have food like Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds," she said. "It would be great if the adviser could help to remind them about healthier food options."

Schools could also help by holding exercise sessions for students before classes, she added.

This article was first published on June 8, 2014.
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