School Health Awards Aim to Combat Obesity in Ballymena

ALMOST a quarter of schoolchildren in Ballymena are overweight - and a further 10% fall into the obese category, figures have revealed.

Now leading charity Action Cancer and independent retail group Centra have called on local schools to enter the 2013 Health Action Awards which reward the best health promotion work being carried out in schools and colleges, in an effort to improve the health of local children.

Action Cancer Health Promotion Assistant Charlotte Hyndman said: “The recent DHSSPS Health Survey[i] found that 21 per cent of children in Northern Ireland are overweight, and that 10 per cent are obese. These are quite shocking figures, especially given that being overweight can be a major risk factor in developing cancer and other serious illnesses later in life. In fact we know that 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

“The aim of Action Cancer’s Health Action programme is to educate young people in healthy behaviours that will help reduce their risk of ill-health, including healthy eating and regular exercise, and the awards encourage local schools to take action to improve their pupils’ health and wellbeing.

Charlotte challenged local nurseries, schools and colleges to gain recognition for their health promotion projects, adding; “The Health Action awards are a key element of our schools programme, which has delivered health promotion sessions, funded by Centra, to almost 440,000 young people. We would like to see as many Ballymena schools as possible take part and tell us about their health initiatives.

Past award winners have been acknowledged for introducing healthy breakfast and lunch options, promoting increased fruit and water consumption, extra-curricular exercise programmes and cancer awareness initiatives. There are Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards for nursery, primary and secondary educational establishments.

Schools and colleges can get entry forms by contacting Action Cancer on 028 9080 3344 or online at www.actioncancer.org

A prize of £200, for purchasing school equipment, will be awarded to the highest scoring pre-school or nursery, as well as each of the top scoring primary schools, secondary schools or colleges in each of the five Education and Library Boards. An overall cash prize of £400 will go to the school that shows the best improvement on the previous year.

The awards form part of Action Cancer’s Health Action programme for schools, which has been supported by Centra since 2003. Centra retailers across Northern Ireland promote Health Action roadshows to local schools and fundraise for Action Cancer. To date more than £760,000 has been donated to the programme.

Jennifer Morton from Centra added; “Health Action is a unique programme, developed specifically for Northern Ireland schools, with a focus on helping young people to be healthier now and in the future. Centra is very proud to be part of this important project and wish all the schools good luck with the 2013 awards!”

Completed Health Action Award forms must be returned to Action Cancer by 26th April and successful schools will be notified at the end of the academic year.