The Health Promotion Board (HPB) in Singapore recently carried out a pilot health programme at 8 schools in the country to try and help students lose weight, stop smoking and to educate them on how to live healthier lifestyles.
This programme has been a success and has in turn helped the HPB to make the decision to target more of Singapore’s schools.
Singapore is a wealthy and westernised nation in the heart of Asia. However, along with the benefits of western society, there is a growing obesity problem which the health authorities feel needs to be tackled now.
Therefore, the HPB is targeting 50 schools, 3 Institutes of Technical Education plus 5 polytechnics. The healthy living programme is expected to run until 2018.
Speaking with reporters, a spokesperson for the HPB said that developing healthy habits starts early in life. And, if established, these habits will continue throughout life, despite the growth in unhealthy fast food businesses and other diversions.
The spokesperson added that schools are an appropriate place to target as children spend a significant amount of time there.
The original pilot began in 2010 with just 8 schools. But the results have been so impressive that the HPB have decided to expand the scheme. 30% of the 500 overweight students that took part in the pilot lost a lot of weight.
Obesity is a growing problem in all western countries, with the USA considered to be the most prone.
Britain, however, is also feeling the effects of this not just in terms of weight, but in shopping habits.
For example, eating fast food is now accepted as relatively normal, rather than an occasional treat.
Moreover, many clothing retailers have had to adjust the small sizes they offer as both men and women (children included) in some cases are larger than they were just a few years ago.
Singapore has taken this potential epidemic much more seriously than many other countries in the world, including the UK.
Whether the UK health authorities can learn something from this approach remains to be seen.