By Dr Aung Tun (Advisor, Ministry of Health and Sports)
School is the basic institution in every society and offers the possibility to improve the health not only of the school children but also of the whole community. It can be achieved by implementing and strengthening comprehensive school health program in Myanmar..
History of School Health Services in Myanmar
In Myanmar, even before independence from British, a medical officer and a dental surgeon for every 30,000 school children had been assigned by the Department of Education, reflecting the importance of children’s health during their school period. A few years after independence, the Government has established in 1953, the Maternal, Child & School Health Department under the Ministry for expansion of school health activities. School health program has been included in the first Peoples’ Health Plan since 1977-78 as one of the community health projects in the country. In 1996, according to changed concepts and situation of global partners with Global School Health Initiative, Myanmar adopted the concept of health promotion through schools. Aiming to promote the health standard of the entire student youths, the skills and knowledge needed for adoption of healthy lifestyle, Health Promoting School program has been introduced into existing school health services since 1996.
Current Situation of School Health in Myanmar
A very significant activity for school health program of Myanmar, Myanmar Global School Health Survey was conducted in 2007 for the purpose of monitoring the prevalence of health risk behaviors and protective factors related to the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among students aged 13-15 years: dietary behaviors, hygiene, mental health, physical activity, protective factors, tobacco use, Knowledge about HIV Infection and AIDS and violence and unintentional injuries.
The 2007 MYANMAR GSHS employed a two-stage cluster sample design to produce a representative sample of students in Grades 8,9, 10 and 11. (72) questionnaires were completed in 50 schools. The results of Myanmar GSHS showed that the prevalence of risk taking behaviors among 13-15 years old school children in Myanmar are not very high. The main features of he results are as follows:
* There are good healthy practices such as cleaning or brushing their teeth and washing hands before eating and after using toilets or latrines.
* Prevalence of alcohol use and other drug in comparison of neighboring countries were relatively low. Tobacco use is also reduced compared to 2004 Myanmar GYTS results. Access to tobacco products was reported to be easy. Although the prevalence of overweight is low, the percent of students who are at risk for becoming overweight is 3.1%.
* Unintentional injuries are prevalent among students and are more prevalent among males than females.
School Health Division of Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health and Sports will conduct new GSHS during August 2016.
Aim and Strategies of School Health Program
To promote the health standards of the entire student youth, the skills and knowledge needed for adopting a healthy lifestyle.
The following strategies were developed based on the national health policy, UN SDG goals and the primary health care approach aiming towards a successful implementation of the school health program.
1. Conducting refresher training for teachers and BHS on the development of health promoting schools to promote the health standards of the entire student youth, the skills and knowledge needed for adopting a healthy life style at all levels.
2. Enhancing better quality and coverage of school health care by providing sufficient manpower and supplies.
3. Establishing school health committees at different levels for monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure successful implementation.
4. Conducting research on the impact of school health program to promote existing school health activities.
5. Promoting co-ordination and collaboration mechanisms with ministry of education and other related departments.
6. Organising resources for national school health program through the involvement of local and international NGO’s and international
School Health Services in Myanmar
School Health Division of Department of Public Health is responsible for planning and implementation of school health program in Myanmar. This division is headed by a Director supported by a team of technical staff. State/Region Directors are responsible for school health program activities at the respective state and region.
The most operational unit for rendering comprehensive health care is given by Township Health Unit. Previously, 80 townships out of 330 in Myanmar has been set up with school health teams each of which is organised with a medical officer (the team leader) one assistant medical officer, one dental surgeon, one school health nurse, one dental nurse, one children officer or school medical social worker, and some other clerical staff. In those township without the school health team, maternal and child health officers or township medical officers take charge of the school health services. In rural area the health assistant who are the team leaders of the rural health center are assigned to carry out school health activities in their respective jurisdictions. According to new organizational set up of Department of Public Health, A Township Officer for MCH/School/Nutrition is assigned to carry out school health activities in each township.
Myanmar School-based STH control program are gaining momentum with active involvement of related health projects such as School Health Project, Nutrition project, Maternal and Child Health Project and Lymphatic Filariasis elimination program and Ministry of Education as well as WHO and UNICEF.
2016 School Health Week Activities
As School Health Program aims to improve the health of entire students, the program is in keeping along the track of Health Promoting School up to the community level. The Education sector plays the ownership role and the Health sector is mainly providing the technical support for implementation of the (9) components of Health Promoting Schools.
With the objective to enhance health promoting school activities, the Ministry of Health and Sports, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education will launch the School Health Week of 2016 in the 2nd week of August. The following activities will also carry out in all basic education schools of the country from August 8 to 13, 2016.
(1) School Environmental Sanitation
(2) School Medical Examination and Treatment
(3) Prevention Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases
(4) School Health Education
(5) School Nutrition promotion and Food Safety
Students’ Health, Tommorow’s Wealth
School health services, which serve to develop and improve basic health needs and correct health behavior of the new generation student youth, is an essential and important national investment.
The success and efficiency of school health program depends largely on sound coordinated and effective administrations.
There should be greater understanding and cooperation between the health, education, related departments, NGOs and authorities concerned at all levels in Myanmar.
They should jointly assume responsibilities for strengthening national infrastructure in support of the comprehensive school program.
By Dr Aung Tun (Advisor, Ministry of Health and Sports)