Making schools healthier for our children
Read about the Philips '+' project that aims to create a healthier school environment for children. Gongshang Primary the pilot project for healthier children
Your child spends the majority of his time in school — an average of eight hours a day, every weekday. Do you worry that he ends up skipping a proper meal in favour of unhealthy snacks during recess so that he can play ‘catching’, like Primary 5 student Sarah Huda? Or perhaps your child is not getting enough rest or sleep due to an overload of CCAs, tuition assignments and homework? How can parents do their part in making schools healthier for our children?
The ‘Healthier School, Brighter Kids’ program is an initiative containing three core programs — healthier eating, healthier sleep, healthier eyes — in schools to encourage healthy living. At Gongshang Primary, Mr Baey Yam Keng, MP for Tampines GRC, was the special guest witnessing its final implementation, and took part in the various activities for the school students.
Philips’ ‘+’ project a step towards making schools healthier
The idea of ‘Healthier School, Brighter Kids’ birthed in late 2012 when Philips launched the ‘+’ project. With more than 6,800 votes received in a nation-wide survey, it outshone other project ideas like “Heart Matters” (Cardio-health), “Mother’s Best Friends” (Women’s health), etc.
“We want to know the things that make the community worry,” Mr Arent Jan Hesselink, the Regional Head in Integrated Marketing & Communication at Philips, who explained the mindset behind this project and its implementation.
Their survey showed that the local community agreed that making schools healthier for kids is a long-term effort to improve overall well-being in Singapore.
Hands-on cooking sessions were introduced to the students to teach them how to make a simple, balanced meal for increased energy and concentration. Food nutritionists were engaged to share recipes and tips among teachers, parents and canteen vendors about healthy eating.
“I mean we all know the food pyramid, but sometimes you just don’t cultivate that until you get a reminder,” said Evonne Tee, parent of Primary 1 and Primary 2 students at Gongshang.
When asked what he thinks about the possible upcoming change for healthier recipes in canteens, Matthias Low, Primary 5 student says sheepishly: “Well, although I don’t like [the idea], I know it’s good for my health.”
An assembly talk was conducted for the kids with tips and advice of how sleep affects their overall health. Talks by the sleep doctor also taught parents about the importance of a healthy sleeping habit.
Yvonne Choo (mother of primary 3 and primary 6 children) knows the importance of sleep health, but has not enforced a strict bedtime for her children in the past.
“Now we know that we should cut all [activities] off half an hour before bedtime,” Choo shares, stating one of the tips to keep kids less active before bedtime, to ensure a good night’s rest.
Students interviewed had a latest ‘cut-off’ time of 11pm, the time by which they had to be in bed.
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A fun and interactive skit was shown to the students about eye care, which included tips like taking a break when using devices like the computer or iPad. An optometrist spoke about eye care to parents and teachers, and taught them about paying attention to details in the child’s habits that would adversely affect eye health.
As far as we know, most parents already do their part for their child’s eye health. Bespectacled P5 student Sarah Huda acknowledges, as do other children, that their parents set limits on their TV and computer-time. But that does not cloud the fact that Singapore still has one of the highest rates of myopia.
Read on to find out more about this program to promote healthy living for kids.
Healthy living in school, healthy living at home
The Philips ‘+’ project adopts a multi-pronged approach in inculcating healthier lifestyles for kids. The project is received warmly by both parents, teachers and students of Gongshang Primary. As the school incorporates changes for the kids’ to lead healthier lifestyles, parents too understand the importance of them doing their part. During the launch, parents were educated about healthy eating in talks, learning about food pyramids and “My Plate” theory to achieve better knowledge about food nutrition.
During the cooking demonstration we witnessed, some students delightedly chirped “YES!” when asked if they will teach these recipes to their families.
RELATED: Nurture your child’s eye health
MP Baey Yam Keng feels that this is a good age to start thinking about healthy living, for the young are easily influenced and most open to ideas — so why not influence them for the better?
“Through them, their parents can be influenced too,” said Mr Baey who feels that there should be more initiatives like this.
Through the Healthier Schools, Brighter Kids program, Philips targets to make schools healthier through 300 teachers, 300 parents, 30 canteen vendors, and more than 3,600 students in the first three primary schools by the end of 2013.