Health and wellness in education: A long and arduous road

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Lifestyle habits are most critical in their impact on health and the development of chronic illnesses later in life, these habits develop during childhood, but such behaviors are especially critical during adolescence from age 10 to 19. The best way to prevent adolescence from engaging in bad lifestyle choices is through education.اضافة اعلان

Education on diet, hygiene, mental health, physical activity, the dangers of smoking, and the prevention of bullying and violence are just some of the essential topics to focus on in the country that is undergoing huge demographic, economic and social transitions.

In 2007, a survey of Jordanian school children aged 13 to 15 found that 83.5 percent of students did not do enough physical activity, 14.3 percent were found to be at risk of becoming overweight, over 41 percent were found to have been bullied at school, some physically, while 18 percent seriously considered suicide and some actually planned out how they would do it.

The Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS), carried out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), issued recommendations that current educational programs be reviewed and updated if need be and that new programs be developed.

While the survey found that just 3.9 percent of students surveyed were classified as overweight, unhealthy eating habits were widely prevalent. The study found that 14.6 percent of students ate at fast food restaurants and 38 percent usually drink carbonated soft drinks. Conversely, the study also found that 14 percent of students surveyed went hungry because there was no food in the house.

The survey found that 72 percent of students did not have access to clean restrooms at school and that 33 percent had no place to wash their hands before eating, while nine percent from among who did wash their hands didn’t use soap. It also found that 25 percent of students surveyed did not brush their teeth, all of which pointed to poor hygiene habits among students.

The GSHS investigated many other aspects as well including basic sexual education and tobacco use. As a result of their findings, they made broad recommendations to help improve the health and wellness situation within schools.

Furthermore, the WHO and CDC survey placed emphasis on the environment surrounding schooling and as a result recommendations were made to develop guidelines and training for teachers, students, parents, and health providers to improve the level of knowledge and awareness, attitudes, behaviors, and healthy practices.

They also suggest improvements to the curriculum and school facilities through the cooperation of government institutions such as the Ministry of Youth, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education.

Recommendations were made internally to social counselors that stressed their role in communicating and improving social relations between students, teachers, and parents. In addition to enforcing school regulations regarding school attendance, smoking prevention, combating bullying, and violence in schools.

Since then, reform in schools has been a slow and arduous process which will take years to implement. A large portion of blame can be placed on the red tape involved in different ministries communicating with each other.

Back in 2018, when the Health Ministry issued a memo calling for the development of a new student healthcare plan, the plan was rejected by the Education Ministry owing to difficulties in financial implementation. Further back and forth between the two ministries resulted in a deadlock and no resolution.

Despite this, there have been reforms implemented in schools to improve wellness among students. In 2016, the Health Ministry found that 93 percent of schools in Jordan had implemented some form of the events or activities centered around hygiene and health. Among these events were extracurricular activities, among the most popular were morning assemblies and “all-hands” events that have been an effective tool in disseminating health and hygiene related information to students.

The Youth Ministry has begun to establish projects that help improve wellness among the youth. Projects began in 2019 and will hopefully be implemented sometime before 2025. Two programs of particular interest are project 9.4 to establish healthy values among young people, and project 9.5 to establish positive health behaviors among young people

The goal is to develop programs that spread awareness in these areas and includes aid of other ministries as well as international organizations including UNICEF.

Although there have been efforts to improve health within schools for adolescent students, wellness is an area that is underappreciated. Programs on mental health are virtually nonexistent. With a disproportionally large number of students suffering from suicidal tendencies, greater care should be taken in this area. In addition, programs to help with stress management and coping techniques should also be considered.

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