Today we had our first community nutrition lecture and men! It was awesome! The lecturer came some minutes into the lesson and introduced us to the unit with definition of terms. One thing I like about this lecturer is her ability to take our minds to the working environment. She really brings the practicability of her lecture into perspective with unmatched ease.
With this semester looking tough, we were prepared for it.
That aside, we discussed about a topic that was a reserve of the developed countries until recently. Developing countries, Kenya included are now grappling with lifestyle diseases in as close measure as the West.
From childhood, through adolescence to adulthood, obesity news have been rampant and hence need for action. Nutrition, a profession that has always been sidelined in the Total Patient Care Process is now at the centre-stage of the fight against lifestyle diseases all over the world.
It’s time nutritionists in Kenya stamped their authority and prevent the disaster that is lifestyle diseases. It’s a very sad and ironical situation when in one house, people are dying of hunger, their neighbors across the fence are dying of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes among other lifestyle diseases.
The type of foods one consume are one of the determinants of their health. Studies have also indicated that childhood and adolescence obesity have a correlation with obesity later in life. Talking about adolescents in Kenya, one thing is clear: MOST of them are in High Schools.
The adolescent stage is a defining stage in an individual’s life. Therefore, the kind of foods eaten at this stage in life can either make or break the future health of the adolescent. This stage is also associated with snacking and hence the need to regulate the kind of snacks consumed. It therefore calls for school administration to make salient choices of foods and snacks consumed by the students to ensure the promotion of their health.
The types of foods and snacks offered at school or eaten by the students at school must be nutritious to ensure optimum development, and operation of the body’s physiological processes.
Here is a sample of recommendations that high school administrations and managers can put into consideration to ensure that their students meet their nutrient and energy requirements. This list is a product of our discussion in class. I must say that it’s not exhaustive.
1.) ENCOURAGE FORMATION OF NUTRITION CLUBS BY THE STUDENTS.
Clubs are important arenas for students to socialize. It’s from clubs that students shape their look on life and their environment. Club forums promote self-esteem and help students shape their career paths and aspirations in life.
Nutrition Clubs will therefore be of great help in instilling nutrition knowledge in the studenss. The students will have an opportunity to interact and share their nutrition knowledge – mostly from their biology, agriculture and homescience classes – and shape their attitudes towards certain foods. These clubs will provide good forums for the students to
learn and appreciate nutrition knowledge.
2. ALLOW AND ENCOURAGE NUTRITION TALKS TO STUDENTS BY EXTERNAL SPEAKERS.
Well, it doesn’t have to an external speaker …it can be anybody who has nutrition knowledge.
Many Secondary Schools have given their students opporuniti to attend motivational talks by external speakers or teachers from the school. This talks are oftenly centred on academic excellence, drugs and drug abuse and sexuality. Never on nutrition and its importance.
It’s time nutritionists ventured into the art (business or voluntary) of giving public lectures to students. I remember last year when we had gone for a class tour to Kenyatta National Hospital and one of the Nutritionists at the hospital was giving us a talk on ‘The Role of a Nutritionist’. The nutritionist, Mdm Hellen Baliach said, “Nutritionists must grow each other and to do this, they should always be willing to share information freely and without prejudice.”
By sharing information with the students through talks, nutritionists will be leaving indelible marks in the community. These talks will be quite instrumental in shapingthe food choices and lifestyles of the students. They will provide good opportunities for the inquisitive students to get answers and the don’t care students to start caring for their health benefitting them a lifetime.
3.) BANNING JUNK FOODS IN SCHOOL.
I know of many schools that have banned their students from carrying juices and other homemade food to school. The reason being that the students used to ‘treat’ the foodstuffs. The students would inject drugs into the foods or simply mix the two.
There is a second danger in junk foods apart from being easy carriers of drugs . Junk foods contain mostly carbohydrates and energy. With most students living sedentary lives, the excess energy contained in these foods will not be utilized when the foods are consumed. The energy will therefore be converted to fat which will be stored in the body tissues and around organs leading to the development of diseases.
Some of the consequences of excessive accumulation of fats in the body include hypertension, stroke, thrombosis, obesity, heart failure, arteriosclerosis amon others.
School canteens should also be incorporated in the program to ensure success.
4.) ALLOW FRUITS AND VEGETABLES IN STUDENT DIET.
Due to budgetary constraints, most schools always opt for cheaper diets. They eliminate anything they deem ‘unnecessary’ from the diet. Unfortunately, fruits find themselves in this list of ‘unnecessaries’ in spite of their enormous benefits. The vegetables provided lack variety.
This trend should be discouraged. School administrations should allow for some variety of fruits and vegetables in the students’ diet. This is because the two food groups are rich sources of important micronutrients that have far reaching consequences when they are deficient in the body.
Schools with large tracks of land should plant vegetables and fruits to save on the money.
With the semester still young, I can bet my articles will be more from class experiences. I hope you learn with me and enjoy the journey of nutrition.
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