The Ministry of Education is presently holding discussions with the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Alliance Lanka, an advocacy group to the Ministry of Health to formulate guidelines to change school curricula to include the prevention of NCDs among early teens.
An official attached to the Ministry said that such a move was initiated after realizing the necessity of creating awareness of NCD among school students and thereby work towards preventing it.
The Sri Lanka Heart Association (SLHA) pointed out that they were presently in talks with educationists to get them to accept the need for the said changes.
President of the SLHA, Dr. Rohan Gunawardena said that it would take at least a year for the changes to be implemented in schools at the classroom level.
He said pediatricians treat 11 and 12-year-old children for high blood pressure and diabetes.
“Lifestyle modification by way of diet and exercise along with abstaining from smoking and alcohol consumption must be inculcated in school-going children as it is at this age that NCDs start,” he warned.
“While diabetes is deadly, it is also a risk factor for heart disease”, Dr. Gunawardena added.
The school curriculums and syllabuses (of subjects such as health science) must be upgraded and changed (by way of the inclusion of new chapters in textbooks) to include physical activity and must stress on good eating habits even though good and safe food is not as tasty as unhealthy food, Dr. Gunawardena observed.
“Heart attacks and heart failure are more of a problem. Over 80% of these cases are preventable,” he said.
“Obesity is a problem. Children watch television or are on the computer or at tuition. They no longer play. People tend to wait till they get something to take action. Healthy food and exercise is essential. Children’s minds must be changed while in the 11 to 13 age category,” he emphasized.