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Ferrero hits sweet spot with school program

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-03 07:24

Guideline booklets educate children on better diet and proper exercise

In late May, 50-year-old Li Yiqin finally received a group of visitors he had long been expecting. They were education experts from the Chinese Center for Healthy Education, an institute under the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Li is the deputy principal at Rizhao Foreign Language School, in Rizhao, Shandong province, one of the best schools in the province, with more than 5,000 students, and he cares passionately about their dietary habits.

"The students generally are healthy, and do exercise as the school requires, but many of them have very unhealthy dietary habits," Li said.

"A lot of them don't eat a proper breakfast," he said. "Many don't like eating vegetables, and instead, they have lots of fried food and all kinds of beverages."

The health education experts were conducting a survey on the dietary and fitness habits of students aged 7 to 15, as well as their health knowledge, in 24 schools in six cities in Shandong and Qinghai provinces, including Li's.

The program is supported exclusively by Ferrero China and started in March in Beijing.

On Aug 26, the center and Ferrero held a conference in Xining to release a report on the survey and announce the next move.

The survey revealed that an imbalanced diet and lack of exercise are common among students. Over half of the survey respondents have fried, overly salty or over-sweet snacks every day but less than 40 percent exercised for more than one hour daily.

Only 26 percent of primary students and 15 percent of junior middle school students eat enough vegetables every day. About 39 percent of primary students and 59 percent of junior middle school students think fruit can replace vegetables, which is wrong.

"Children are the hope of our society, but their unhealthy lifestyles and lack of health knowledge are taking a toll on their health," said Cheng Yulan, deputy director with the guideline and training department of the center.

"Obesity and many other chronic diseases now affect younger people and we need to do something to change it."

Based on the survey findings and existing physical and psychological development research results, the center has produced a set of guideline booklets (the core one is the Youth Diet and Sport Guideline) to distribute among teachers, students and their guardians.

The booklets have practical directions for children to follow, regarding what to eat and how to exercise to benefit their health.

During the conference, the center distributed the booklets to teachers' representatives, and held a brief training session for them to learn how to take into consideration children's psycho-social response to lead them to adopt healthy lifestyles.

From September this year through February 2015, the center will help schools build a scientific and comprehensive education system to teach children to adopt healthy lifestyles, with help of volunteers from Ferrero China, maker of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, among other products.

The center will evaluate the system's efficiency to make improvements for the next phase of the intervention, Cheng said.

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