We are told that life style choices are making us unhealthy as a nation. Often the response to this statement is to look at who is to blame. Is it the convenience and the attractiveness of fast food? Is technology to blame for inactivity? Is there a lack of places providing affordable, safe outdoor activities? Is work-life balance to be held accountable? Who should take responsibility: parents, community or schools?
The answer to these questions, if it was multiple choice, is all of the above.
While I cannot speak for every aspect of society I can shed light on what schools are doing so that families can reinforce the concepts at home. The curriculum in Physical Education and Health goes into depth about the importance of eating choices and the need for balanced nutrition. Checking a child's school books will help parents see what is being addressed. In addition there are mandatory hours of physical activity that is taught, including team and individual sports. Public school curriculum also includes compulsory swimming instruction. Whole school carnivals emphasise and celebrate the importance of healthy physical competition.
Eating choices are supported by government schools through a Health Canteen policy. Schools must audit the food served in school canteens to ensure a majority of healthy food choices for students. The audit is submitted to the NSW Government for verification. Our school alumni often reminisce about the canteen special of the 1970's, a sausage roll in a bread roll. This canteen special is a distant memory and certainly off the menu.
Many schools support breakfast programs to help students start the day with good energy. Cabramatta High offers a fitness program two mornings a week and a breakfast program three times a week. The community is helping to support these by providing food to be served. I acknowledge the generous donations from Eat Up Australia and Foodbank as well as staff and student volunteers who ensure that breakfast can be provided for free. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast increases energy and concentration.
Role modelling and encouraging healthy eating and physical activity at home is essential to sustainable lifestyle behaviours. I would like to think that by working together we can create a healthier nation.