Improving health through schools

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The Myanmar Global School-based School Health Surveys were conducted twice — in 2007 and then in 2016. The surveys showed overall health behavior and risk factors across spectrums of health in students aged 13-15 years, ranging from dietary behaviors, hygiene, mental health, physical activity, alcohol and tobacco use, to protective factors, knowledge about HIV infection and AIDS, and violence and unintentional injuries.
Generally, students scored well on personal hygiene, including hand-washing before and after meals, as well as after using the toilet, and teeth brushing. The percentage of students who reported they rarely washed hands or cleaned teeth was very low.
The number of students who directly engaged in risk behaviors was also low. However, they were exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in their environment. Regarding physical activity and dietary behavior, most students were at risk of becoming overweight, as most students were not physically active and did not consume fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.
When it comes to the school health program, approaches to the program in regions and states need to be pragmatic, with setting of priorities, drawing of timelines, and adoption of tasks.
To ensure strong linkages between responsible departments, tasks for the departments should be clearly laid down.
Generally, the School Health Division of the Department of Public Health is responsible for planning and implementation of the school health program in Myanmar. Its state or region directors are also responsible for school health program activities in their states and regions.
But, success cannot be achieved without active participation from school heads, teachers, and parents. As they get increasingly involved in their child’s education, parents should support child health and well-being and encourage children to be fit.
A political and financial commitment to the nationwide school health program would bring huge improvements to child health and education, improving the lives of millions of school-aged children.
Such a commitment would ensure minimum standards of school-based health services and a safe environment.
In addition to multi-sectoral collaboration, human resource mobilization and improved teacher and health provider training is required to turn the teaching workforce into low-cost champions of basic child health.

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