ONE in four schoolchildren in Brunei is obese or overweight, statistics from the Health Promotion Centre under the Ministry of Health (MoH) show.
In 2008 alone, it was found that 4,172 schoolchildren in the Sultanate were overweight while 3,816 were obese.
Dr Hjh Norhayati Kassim, head of the Health Promotion Centre, told The Brunei Times that every year, members of the centre carry out screenings for Primary One, Four, Six and Secondary Two students in the country.
"The obesity issue is quite complex due to factors such as diet and the lack of physical activity among children," she said.
"Although the centre and the MoH have been giving out general advice about obesity, it does take time to change behaviour."
She added that although the number of overweight or obese schoolchildren was alarming, the ministry will not be able to overcome the problem on its own. It needs the support of government agencies, supermarkets, restaurants, parents and teachers to start getting involved in the addressing the matter, she said.
"We (at the Health Promotion Centre) are currently looking at ways to strengthen our partnerships with government agencies and the private sector to get our message across that is, to lead a healthy eating lifestyle," she said.
Dr Hjh Norhayati suggested that perhaps, restaurants could look into providing extra menus of healthy food choices, such as salads.
She also suggested that the Ministry of Education look into incorporating a healthy eating lifestyle among schoolchildren, either through incorporating it into the school's curriculum or co-curriculum.
"Outside the curriculum, maybe they could introduce the formation of (healthy eating clubs)," she said.
As for parents, she said that as role models to their children, they can control the types of food served at home.
"Everything should be in moderation. Perhaps parents could be more adventurous in finding ways to get their children to eat more fruits and vegetables."
For teachers, Dr Hjh Norhayati said, "I hope that teachers themselves will develop an interest in this issue. My call to the teachers is to think of interesting ways that will help students understand the message of a leading a healthy lifestlye."
Dk Siti Noorhasyimah Ali, a teacher at Nakhoda Abdul Rashid Primary School, said that she was "not happy" that students were not health conscious.
"Everything in my school canteen is fried and fat-centred. The students are just buying these types of food during breaktime and no one is stopping them," she said.
She said that people from health departments should collaborate with the Ministry of Education to come up with a special menu at schools, such as serving salads instead of nasi lemak.
Dk Siti Noorhasyimah said that students should start eating healthily now before "it's too late".
Kartika Hj Bakar, a Primary Two teacher at Dato Mohd Yassin Primary School, echoed the same sentiments.
"As a teacher, I am concerned about my students' health because being obese or overweight will affect their studies and health."
She said she was concerned about the issue of obesity among schoolchildren because when they do not eat healthy, they tend to be lazy and lose concentration more easily in classes.
"It would be nice if the healthy lifestyle message could become a subject or an extra-curricular activity to encourage students to start eating healthy," she said.
In a bid to underscore the value of healthy living among children, a workshop was held at the Health Promotion Centre for about 80 Primary Two schoolteachers on Monday. It emphasised the importance of healthy lifestyle practices from childhood.
The Brunei Times