Statement
13 April 2015 - 4:30pm

Remarks By The Minister Of Education And Culture, Honourable Myron V. Walwyn
Delivered By Acting Deputy Secretary, Mrs. Prudence Mathavious
For The Healthy Schools Intervention Programme Workshop Opening Ceremony

Student Services Conference Room
Monday, April 13, 2015

9:00 a.m.

Good morning all. I too would like to acknowledge the presence of:

Hon. Archibald Christian - At Large Representative and Chairman of the Interdepartmental Technical Working Group

Mrs. Christine Bocage – Senior Technical Officer with the Caribbean Public Health Agency

Dr. Lavon Chalwell – the Ag. Chief Education Officer

The International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) indicates that  traditionally  government health ministries and education ministries work separately with different goals. However, there is mounting evidence from across the world which shows that these ministries are interdependent and are more and more forging ties to work together.  Recognizing this, I am happy that both of our Ministries here are closely linked, and we now have a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2014 between the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Ministry of Health and Social Development in a cooperative partnership to improve the well-being, health and academic achievement of school children of the Virgin Islands.

My understanding is that the Healthy Schools Committee is one of six committees established by the Interdepartmental Technical Working Group, which is the coordinating arm of the BVI Health and Wellness Advisory Council, established by the Minister of Health and Social Development to ensure the successful implementation of the Chronic Non-Communicable Disease Prevention Strategy. This initiative is one which is timely and important as we seek to improve the health of all residents of the Virgin Islands across the life cycle and school age children are a very important part of our population especially when we look at the current trends in health among that age group.

The onset of chronic non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure is seen in our school population and I daresay is on the increase.  We just have to look at the data from the 2009 Global School Health Survey which was conducted on children ages 13-15 across the Territory.

36% of our students are overweight; 63% reported that they drank carbonated soft drinks more than once per day; 62% reported spending 3 or more hours per day during a usual day doing sitting activities; and only 27% were physically active for a total of at least 60 minutes per day on five or more days in a week.

These are serious statistics. We must therefore empower our children so that they can prevent or delay for as long as possible the onset of lifestyle related risk factors and diseases. Our eating and exercise habits must change!

We have had a school health programme in the BVI School System for many years. However, this new partnership seeks to strengthen the present programme by in-cooperating a healthy school approach. Introducing this healthy lifestyle behaviour change programme is expected to improve the health and well-being of all our students starting at the primary level. We also take pride in our other collaborative efforts with the Ministry of Health and Social Development, for example, the 10,000 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle Initiative through the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports (DYAS) and the BVI Olympic Committee (BVIOC). We also plan to start discussions in the area of Physical Education which is an integral part of the recently established Sports Policy as PE and recreation are vitally important for good health.

The Ministry of Education and Culture is in full support of this initiative and as you go through the activities planned for this seminar and those to follow, I urge you to become fully engaged in the activities. We, as educators play a vital role in molding our students and helping them to develop lifelong skills which will help them to in turn make wise lifestyle choices. Do not for one minute underestimate the power you have as teachers on the minds of our children. I take this opportunity to thank you teachers for coming out to be a part of this programme. I also thank all those in both the Ministry of Health and Social Development and my own Ministry for the roles you have played in developing this worthwhile initiative. Mrs. Christine Bocage, I also extend my gratitude to you and CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) for providing technical assistance and funding for this phase of the Healthy Schools Intervention programme. I wish you all a successful seminar and look forward to the outcomes.

Thank you.

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