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September 23, 2019

Physically and Mentally Fit Youth for the Brighter Future

 

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi poses for the documentary photo together with Union Ministers, diplomats and attendees at the National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promoting School held in Nay Pyi Taw on June 12, 2019 (Photo: MOHS)
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi poses for the documentary photo together with Union Ministers, diplomats and attendees at the National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promoting School held in Nay Pyi Taw on June 12, 2019 (Photo: MOHS)

Myanmar has adopted the concept of health promotion in school settings since the beginning of Global School Health Initiatives in 1996. Health -promoting school programme was introduced into existing school health services aiming to promote health standards for all students, the skills, and knowledge needed for adoption of healthy lifestyle. In principle, a health promoting school encompasses healthy school policies; school’s physical and social environment; health education, skills, literacy, and health services; and community engagement. Dual benefits of the implementation of health promoting school are to achieve “health for all” and “education for all” as health condition of students contributes greatly to education performance, and numbers of health-related activities attract school enrolment and on the other hand, education can improve health condition of the whole population, extended from students, to parents, teachers, and communities. Many of the international and national commitments made on education and health sectors have emphasized the school health as one of the vital agenda.

Recent National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promoting School in Myanmar
National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promoting School titled “Physically and Mentally Fit Youth for the Brighter Future” was held at the Myanmar International Convention Center-2 on June 12, 2019 in Nay Pyi Taw. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the seminar and gave opening speech. The State Counsellor called for efforts for various issues including prevention and control of drugs, cigarettes, betel nuts and alcohol in basic education schools and universities, decreasing traffic accidents, reducing excessive gaming, encouraging habits for healthy living, and including comprehensive reproductive health education in school lessons. She also called for cooperation among related ministries, parents, teachers, students, international organizations, NGOs and ethnic organizations to get physically and mentally fit youth for the brighter future. Speaking at the seminar, Union minister for Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe said the activities for strengthening health promoting School programme are as important as the National Health Plan(2017-2021), the road map for the health sector of the country. He called on other related ministries, NGOs and civil society organizations for cooperating in the implementation of health promoting school programme activities under the leadership of the Ministry of Education as the Ministry of Health and Sports alone can not bring success to the programme. Union Minister for Education Dr. Myo Thein Gyi aslo gave keynote address and called on faculties of the Ministry of Education, parents and students to cooperate the best with related ministries and MPs in implementing the health promoting school programme which ensure the student youth free from drugs, tobacco, alcohol and can promote the healthy lifestyles and can reduce game addict. The two-day seminar was attended by related Union Ministers, deputy ministers, Hluttaw representatives, members of the Nay Pyi Taw councils, state/regional ministers for social affairs, facilitators for the panel discussions, ministerial permanent secretaries and departmental heads, experts attending to give lectures, officials from international organizations, representatives of student unions, and students from basic education schools in Nay Pyin Taw. This 2-day National seminar took place with various sessions covering prevention and nut control of drugs, cigarettes, betel nuts and alcohol and road accidents, comprehensive sexual education, healthy life styles, computer game issue and health promoting school approaches.

Current situation of School Health in Myanmar
Ministry of Health and Sports in collaboration with Ministry of Education has implemented School Health services since 1920. The school health activities improve children’s health condition physically and mentally. As a result, not only school enrolment rate increases, but also attendance rate improved. However, challenges remain in reaching the hard to reach population, where enrolment is low and retaining students for higher education and skill development are difficult. Contributing factors are low GDP per capita, inadequate resources for trained personnel, for health services and facilities in all schools, and lack of education and awareness on some crucial health issues, social stigma, myths and other social and economic barriers. Health promoting school approach were utilized in a fragmented manners depend on resources availability.
Recent 2016 Myanmar Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) demonstrated that the prevalence of unhealthy behaviors such as unhealthy dietary habits including eating junk foods (46%) and drinking carbonated soft drinks (45%), physical inactivity (30.2%), alcohol drinking (4.3%), and using tobacco (6.6%) among 13-17 year students become increased. Concerning mental health indicators among students; consider suicide, plan to suicide and attempted suicide are also increasing about seven times in recent decade. Hence we can conclude that as compared to previous survey conducted in 2007, the trend of unhealthy behaviours as well as mental health issue among students has been rising up. Moreover, in the report of Myanmar Health Management Information System, in 2015, only 38.8% of schools covered health promoting school activities.
Lessons learnt from past experiences in implementation of school health in Myanmar reveals the following needs:
1) Recognized importance of schools in nurturing and instilling healthy behaviour of population, health promotion in school is critically important for early development of health behaviour and health literacy. Integrated health in academic curriculum will enhance the practice of school health initiatives in Myanmar.
2) Health promoting schools needs to have comprehensive programme and supportive structure and systems for schools to be active institutions that bring change for better health of students, teachers, and families in a long term.
3) Basic infrastructure such as drinking water and utilities, functional toilet, weight and high scales, appropriate lighting (natural or others) in classroom, safe playground and walk ways, sanitized canteen or clean food areas, and safe building structure are prerequisite for school health programmes and activities.
4) Information system linkage between health and education sector will be a foundation to develop proper supports for school health activities as well as harmonize health and education outcomes.
5) Comprehensive school health services should be standardized with basic/minimum health packages that address not only health programmes but also infrastructures and factors that affect health of students, teachers and school staffs.
6) Comprehensive school health applies health promoting school approach that taken whole-of-school social and physical environment that contributing to health and well-being.
7) Current practices of health promoting school activities are fragmented and need to be harmonized.
8) Implementation gaps across regions reflect the social and economic conditions of the region/states. Strategic actions toward closing the gaps will enhance education, health, and other determinants of health and well-being of the students in the most vulnerable areas,

Myanmar National Comprehensive School Health Strategy Plan (2017-2022)
The comprehensive school health strategy (2017-2022) was developed based on the context of National Health Plan (2017-2021 )for younger generation which come from both education and health sector. Myanmar National Comprehensive School Health Strategic Plan (2017-2022) is crafted to improve quality of education and health of students through holistic health promoting school approach, along with factors influencing health of students especially from families and communities.

Vision and Mission of the strategy are as follows:
Vision: To promote physical, mental and social health of entire students
Mission: Developing Health Promoting Schools for learning and working environment for all education families
Purpose of this strategy is to provide systematic framework to promote physical, mental and social health of entire students and promote healthy behaviour to prevent communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as determinants of health and risk factors to prevent diseases through comprehensive health promoting school approach
Major Comprehensive School Health strategies are
Strategic 1: Strengthen and develop health promoting school structure and system,
Strategic 2: Improve health and well-being through health literacy and services,
Strategic 3: Harmonize health and education through health promoting schools, and
Strategic 4: Strengthen community partnership in Health Promoting Schools
Transformation of current domains of health promoting school to systematic strategies was needed to foster inter-agencies, cross-sectoral actions to support health related programmes, with sufficient resources to strengthen school-based health programmes and improve health and education performance of school-aged children in Myanmar. The framework also addresses the gaps to make school a healthy setting for learning and working, as well as aids integration of current fragmented activities.
By the year 2022, health and well-being of stuents in Myanmar should increase in 2-3 folds if implmenetation of this strategic plan is carried out with sufficient resources and coordination between multistakeholders and partners, from schools to home and communities, and supports among various agencies.

2019 School Health Week
In collaboration with Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Sports will observe this year’s National School Health Week from August 12 to 16, 2019.
The primary goal of the National School Health Week is to spread the word regarding the importance of school health and how this not only affects the health and development of the students, but how it contributes to productivity, economic growth and ultimately national development.
. During this period five health promoting school activities will be done in all basic education schools of the country. The prioritized health promoting school activities includes School Environmental Sanitation, School Medical Examination and Treatment, Prevention of Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases, School Health Education, School Nutrition promotion and Food Safety.

Let’s work hand in hand
Partnerships with local communities are indispensable factors for the effective implementation and success of health promotion schools. This new comprehensive school health strategic plan intends to build partnership toward achieving sustainable health of students primarily, and for teachers, families and communities as multiplying affects toward healthy society. Successful health promoting schools often take active roles in promoting health not only within school boundary but extended to students’ families, and communities nearby in order to ensure safe and healthy environment are available and accessible by students thus enhance healthy habits and choices.
With new strategies, schools can become platform for promoting health and enabling school age children, families and communities to be able to take control over their own health to maintain minimum health condition and address some determinations or factors affecting their health together with support or contribution from schools. Active engagement of students will be additional assess for schools to create leadership and students’ characters for being the change agents and ambassadors for healthy society in the longer term.
Let’s work hand in hand in realizing the motto: Physically and Mentally Fit Youth for the Brighter Future.
Ref:- Myanmar National Comprehensive School Health Strategic Plan (2017-2022),
SH Division, DOPH, 2017
-MITV news, 12 June 2019
-Ministry of Health and Sports-Facebook page (12-13 June 2019)
-State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s opening speech at the National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promoting School, Nay Pyi Taw, 12 June 2019
-The Global New Light of Myanmar, 13 June 2019
-Union Minister for Health and Sports and Union Minister for Education’s speeches at the National Seminar on Strengthening Health Promoting School, Nay Pyi Taw, 12-13 June 2019

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