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New Year Focuses on Health4Youth

Health and Youth

The Children's Health Task Force (CHTF) Health4Youth Programme has kicked off the New Year picking up where the program left off before the holiday break at John Gray and Clifton Hunter High Schools.

"The New Year has begun with a good start and the Health4Youth Nutrition Team has been very busy working with the school canteens, Mise En Place, teachers, parents and students with the implementation of the Standards for Food Provisions (CISFP), "says Maureen Cubbon, PR & Fund Raising Coordinator.

Sue Rajah, H4Y Program Coordinator states: "Like any change, it has been met with challenges but the team is working on an education campaign within the schools and working with parents to help bridge any gaps and hopefully make the positive changes to eating habits that need to happen in the schools. It's important for people to understand that the changes have come out of necessity with the health and wellness of the youth of Cayman as the focus. It was collaborative effort between the Children's Health Task Force and the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education".

The Health4Youth Programme was originally created by a variety of organizations in the Cayman Islands that are commitment to the general well being of the Cayman community. The core committee is made of members for the Cayman Heart Fund, Generali Worldwide, TrinCay Medical and the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority. The goal of the program is to create holistic approach towards fighting childhood obesity by working with a pilot group of students in the 2009-2010 year seven class at George Hicks Campus, which is now John Gray.

175 children out of approximately 400 were indentified in the Year 7 class in the 85% and 95% percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI). 146 students were actively engaged in the program through the school year, which included nutritional counseling, medical support and an afterschool exercise program.

The plans for the coming months include psychological assessments, continued nutrition sessions for the children in the program, and supporting the existing curriculum in the schools that focus around health. An extensive in school education campaign will commence in the coming months to help educate the students and teachers about the new foods served in the canteen. Medical assessments and measurements will continue also through the rest of the year.

"Poor childhood nutrition can have lasting effects, impairing cognitive development and school performance," Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP stated. "This is our opportunity to make a measurable difference in student health and well-being. Research consistently shows that children who eat healthier meals perform better academically and are absent from classes less often."

The Health4Youth Programme is in Year 2 of its 3rd year. After 2 years of collecting data and reporting back on the results of the program, the third year will focus on working with the Government and schools to support a change in mind set in the Cayman Islands about health and wellness, especially pertaining to the school environment.

"This Program would not be possible without the continued support of the sponsors -Walkers Global and Walkers Charitable Foundation, Cayman Heart Fund, Rotary Sunrise, Rotary Grand Cayman, Pink Ladies, Lions Club Tropical Gardens, CIREBA, Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, The Ministry of Health and The Ministry of Education. We are able to continue this critical program that will give us some tangible results and some direction on how to fight the rising epidemic of childhood obesity in the Cayman Islands."

Dr. Sook Yin, Medical Director for the Task Force, states, "In our 1st year of The H4Y program the Task Force and the local pediatricians headed by Dr. Cridland had worked very hard to obtain parameters like BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol level, glucose level, insulin level etc that are predictors of chronic diseases in this group of At Risk children in the 85th-95th percentile. The results were startling to us as we have identified children as young as 12 yrs old here in the Cayman Islands who are showing signs of developing Diabetes and Hypertension, two major chronic diseases that in the past was perceived as an "old people disease". The community must come together to support the National Food Policy for school canteens that has been implemented to serve healthier and more nutritious meals to school children or we will have a generation of young adults in a decades' time who will be a burden to our healthcare system".

For information on the Health4Youth Program, please contact Sue Rajah, Program Coordinator at 325-2243 or caymanheartfund@gmail or Dr. Sook Yin at: dryin@sevenmileclinic.ky or 516-1237.