Improving Health Initiative through Schools

Enormous and huge number of students learning at the basic education schools around the country.   Photo: Phoe Khwar
Enormous and huge number of students learning at the basic education schools around the country. Photo: Phoe Khwar

Future leaders of the nation
The school bell was about to ring;
And I had to study for hours.
No more of blissful wandering;
In that colorful world of flowers.
{Passing by My School Garden; By Shveta Sarin}

Motley assortment of sounds is coming out of the doors and windows of the school indicating that all the learning institutions across the country are now lively and dynamic.
Long hot summer was gone and the cool rain drops make all the surrounding green and lush, while the students in white outfits, green sarongs and long skirts gathered at their respective schools.
Academic year in Myanmar has just started.
Currently, there are 47, 365 basic education schools in Myanmar with approximately 9.26 million students.
Most populous region is Yangon Region in the country and that the number of students edged over the population.
When added up with the preschools, also known as nursery schools, pre-primary schools, playschools, the monastic education schools, the universities, the colleges, the technical institutes, the vocational institutes, the total aggregate number of students would easily fit into 20 percent of the whole population of the country.
Enormous and huge number of students, with greater potential and prospective, is there at the learning centers of the country.
Gifted with the liberty, they have the opportunity for future work skills training, wide knowledge, and connections to global information, and to become young professionals.
Embracing the golden opportunity, the students are in the forefront being valued by the State.

Based through the schools
There is a saying that goes “Education in the earliest civilizations”, and therefore, it may be advisable to echo “Improving health initiative through schools”.
According to the research findings of the international organizations, the roles of the class rooms are very much vital and instrumental in providing health care initiatives for the young ones.
Despite the heavy and costly investment in the school health care initiative, the result and benefits in the short term as well as long term, this venture is cost effective. Educators endorsed and advocated such investment without argument or without debate.
Global School Health Initiative, launched by WHO in 1995, seeks to mobilize and strengthen health promotion and education activities at the local, national, regional and global levels. The Initiative is designed to improve the health of students, school personnel, families and other members of the community through schools.
The goal of WHO Global School Health Initiative is to increase the number of schools that can truly be called “Health-Promoting Schools”, and it considered as an effective strategy across the world.
Buzz word is “Healthy Lifestyle” to be embedded in the hearts of all the students across the country, and that the authorities are pushing ahead in top gear for the establishment of more “Health-Promoting Schools”.
Concerted efforts are on the move with full enthusiasm by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Sports.
One could not get water right away, however, “You have to dig a well before you can draw water from it;” and it takes time. With regards to large projects, one has to be careful on each step and move straight ahead in a well balanced manner.
Core concept is to include that of the mutual understanding; that of the trust building; that of the patience negotiation; and that of the flexibility.
Even a small accomplishment at a time is a sense of satisfaction. It is indeed a concerted task completed for the joy and benefit for the future of the students.
Resources being used at the moment are to make sure that valuable materials can be recovered in the future, and to share for the society and the country.
Working hard for the upcoming generation, the only question to ask among ourselves is how much you are willing to sacrifice to achieve success for the greater good of our posterity. In this context, one does not need to ask twice.
Of course, it is indeed a long journey to pursue on a bouncy and bumpy road with hundreds of hurdles to arrive at the desired destination.
Unity and unison is the key to the community’s success over the years while improving health initiative through schools.

School health programs and milestones
1921-The Ministry of Education has been responsible for overseeing school health services since 1920.
1951-Child health care centers and the school health care centers were being established in major cities.
1978-79-First public health project was initiated in conjunction and in combination with the school health project.
11 August 2000-The State Peace and Development Council had reorganized and formed the Central Committee for School Health and its various sub-committees.
8 February 2018-During the incumbent government, the President Office issued Notification No. 12/2018 for the formation of Central Level Health Committee.
June 2019-In line with the directive of the State Counselor, National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promotion School titled “Physically and Mentally Fit Youth for the Brighter Future” was held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre-II in Nay Pyi Taw.

Health-Promoting Schools
Although definitions will vary, depending on need and circumstance, a Health-Promoting School can be characterized as a school constantly strengthening its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working.

Model charter for Health-Promoting School
To become a Health-Promoting School, we are committed to work jointly toward:
• To improve health and education sectors with the most appropriate paradigm within the framework of school authority and management;
• Engaging health and education officials, teachers, students, parents, and community leaders in efforts to promote health;
• Providing a safe, healthy environment, both physical and psychosocial;
• Providing individual opportunities for effective skills-based health education; providing access to health services;
• Implementing school policies and practices that support health;
• Striving to improve the health of the community;

Nine Work Programs for Health-Promoting School
(1) Task in uplifting health awareness based through school;
(2) Task for the sanitation and cleanliness in the school environment;
(3) Task for the prevention of diseases;
(4) Task to raise awareness for school nutrition and to avoid food hazard;
(5) Task to establish school health care plans;
(6) Task to seek public cooperation and to disseminate healthy lifestyle to the people;
(7) Task to provide counseling and to offer social aids and assistances;
(8) Task to conduct training courses and research work;
(9) Task to carry out physical and sports activities.
With a view to implementing the above nine tasks up to the level of primary schools across the country, school health committees at different levels have been formed.
Spreading across the country, the Central Committee, the Regional Level Committee, the State Level Committee, the District Level Committee, the Township Level Committee, and the School Level Committee are being formed, and their duties and responsibilities have been spelled out.
With the changing of the social behavior, personality and lifestyles in 21st century, some health related problems cropped up among the students, according to research findings.

Health related issues among the students
(1) Smoking and consuming of betel quid.
– Smoking among the students accounted for 2 percent in 2007 and jumped to 6.6 percent in 2016. The consumption of betel quid and chewing of tobacco were counted as 3.6 percent in 2007 and leaped to 8 percent in 2016; (GSHS-2007 and GSHS-2016).
(2) Passive smoking (Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called second-hand smoke, brings health hazard).
– According to Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-2016) carried out in 2016, one student out of three in Myanmar has been exposed to tobacco smoke at home, and that three students out of ten have been exposed to smoke in the environment.
(3) Abuse of alcohol.
– According to Global School Based Student Health Survey (GSHS-2016) conducted in 2016; abuse and consumption of alcohol has been accounted as 4.3 percent among the students, and that half of the students have started the habit before the age of 14 years.
(4) Consumption of soft drinks.
– One student out of two is accounted to be consuming soft drinks with carbonate more than once each day. A total of 46 percent of students are consuming readymade food with less nutrition more than two days in a week. (The side effect associated with daily ready-made meal causes. numerous health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, cancer, and liver as well as other health problems; GSHS-2016).
(5) Playing Video Games.
– One out of six students, stays away from physical exercises, remains idle and view videos and plays games, spending more on screen time; (GSHS-2016).

(To be continued)
Translated by UMT (Ahlon)

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