The Director of Health Services in the Oti Region has said good nutrition enhances academic performance of children and contribute to their lifelong health and well-being.
Dr Emmanuel Dzotsi said, “Healthy students are better learners” adding that schools must not only be seen as centres for academic learning but also supportive venues for the provision of essential health education and services for children to improve on their health.
The Director, who was speaking at a stakeholders meeting on the “Nutrition-Friendly Schools Programme” in Ho, said it had been acknowledged that schools were the ideal places for children and youth to observe and learn about healthy eating and nutrition.
He said paying attention to the health and nutrition of school children was paramount as childhood and adolescence were known to be critical periods for health and development.
Physiological needs for nutrients and consumption of diet of high nutritional quality also increased during those periods.
Dr Dzotsi said malnutrition in girls contributed to increased morbidity and mortality associated with pregnancy and delivery, and the increased risk of delivering low birth-weight babies, which also contributed to the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.
He said a healthy and balanced lifestyle was important for children because optimal eating patterns and habits developed early in life were more likely to be maintained and have a significant influence on health and well-being in adulthood.
Thus, it reduced the risk of chronic ailments such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and type II diabetes.
He maintained that healthy dietary intake and improved physical activity during childhood and adolescence also reduced the risk of immediate nutrition-related health problems of primary concern to school children, namely under-nutrition, over-nutrition including obesity and dental caries.
He said, though, there was a steady decline in most malnutrition indicators at the national level, Ghana “is still confronted with the triple burden of malnutrition: the coexistence of stunting, overweight/obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies.”
The Volta Regional Director of Education, Madam Enyonam Afi Amafuga, said issues of health and education could be found at the core of human development, however, the latter would be handicapped if the former was weak.
She said it was, therefore, important for stakeholders to pay serious attention to the health issues of children because education delivery could be optimal if health issues were not ignored by stakeholders but rather addressed thoroughly.
She said when school children were given right nutritional meals in schools it would go a long way to keep them in good health for the academic exertion required of them and therefore urged all stakeholders to ensure that schools become profound nutrition-conscious centres for the benefit of children.
The Director of Environmental Health for Volta and Oti Regions, Richard Ahiagbede, urged stakeholders in the educational sector to pay attention to schools’ environment by ensuring that it was kept clean at all times to prevent diseases.
He said nutritional meals could be provided to school children but if the environment was not kept clean the food would be contaminated thereby defeating the purpose of the initiative.