Students exercise on their first day at an Indian school in the UAE. Pictures used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: Physical education in public and private schools has become mandatory across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, a senior official at the first school health development strategy workshop on Monday confirmed.

The decision was taken by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), after findings issued by the Global School Survey showed that 12.1 per cent of adolescents across the emirate were obese or overweight.

Being overweight increases a person's chances of developing diabetes. An estimated 20 per cent of residents in Abu Dhabi have diabetes.

Speaking on the sidelines of Monday's workshop, HAAD Public Health Manager Salim Adib said: "Children in the emirate aren't in good health.

Avoiding junk food

"They're not eating the right food, nor exercising enough. That's why today's meeting is important, since all authorities concerned will set a strategy to help curb obesity and diabetes among our adults of tomorrow."

Adib added: "Our main concern is that 70 per cent of overweight adolescents stand a chance of becoming obese adults. "That's why it's fundamentally important to prevent obesity at a young age, and to help omit hyper-caloric junk.

"For instance, one of our priorities is to provide students with sports facilities in schools during the day, even after school hours."

A UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) survey showed that 21 per cent of UAE school students aged four to 18 years, had the potential to become overweight.

HAAD CEO Zaid Al SikSek said: "There's a total of 550,000 children in the emirate, which is more than a quarter of the number of residents across the emirate. "If we want to build a strong and healthy generation, each one of these children needs special encouragement and guidance towards eating healthy, and playing sports." The HAAD plans to promote hygiene, healthy eating, and safety in schools. "We want students to stop smoking cigarettes and shisha, and to use seat belts in school buses," Al SikSek said.

"We'll also create programmes to help limit physical violence in schools, through positive mental and psychological means."

More than Dh10 million has also been spent on providing 305 emirate public schools with health care and fully fledged medical services.

ADEC Director General Mugheer Al Khaili said: "The ADEC has been in close contact with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) to provide public school students from Kindergarten one (KG1) to Grade 12 (G12), with medical services and a nurse on board, and will complete our mission with all our 180 private schools by next year."

Health

• 12.1 per cent adolescents are overweight

• 21 per cent are at risk of being overweight due to imbalance of calorie intake

• 26 per cent of school students have 2-3 soft drinks each day

• 39 per cent of students lead a sedentary lifestyle

• 70 per cent of overweight adolescences end up obese adults

Do you support this move? Will it bring results? What other ways would help children overcome obesity and other health problems?