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The Health Authority – Abu Dhabi, (HAAD), Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), announced the launch of its ‘‘Iftah Ya Simsim’ initiative for health education at schools throughout the Emirate today at the Mubarak bin Mohammed School in Abu Dhabi.

Launched in collaboration with Bidaya Media, the initiative utilises the well-known characters from the ‘Iftah Ya Simsim’ television show in a variety of innovative and fun educational materials, designed to raise children’s overall awareness on health matters.

HE Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of HAAD said: “Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in non-communicable diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes in addition to a number of chronic diseases correlated with unhealthy lifestyles. Based on this, we consider initiatives that are designed to raise public health awareness among our children a top priority.  We believe that it is critical that this message is communicated to the public, and that healthy lifestyle habits are instilled in children at a very early age. HAAD and ADEC are collaborating to provide educational materials that leverage the endearing ‘Iftah Ya Simsim’ characters, to promote healthy lifestyle choices and contribute to the creation of a healthy population for the future.”

Dr. Mugheer went on to say: “A healthy child means a healthy mind. The healthier our youth are, the more productive they will be. Without being healthy, nothing can be accomplished, therefore it is of paramount importance that we pay special attention to our future generation’s health. Part of their education should be to take care of themselves and make healthy lifestyle choices a big part of their lives.”

H.E. Professor Dr Maha Taysir Barakat, Director General of HAAD, said: “We at the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi believe that prevention is key to fulfilling our vision for ‘a healthier Abu Dhabi’. This initiative will see us working closely with the Abu Dhabi Education Council to launch a number of health education materials for the benefit of all of our children in schools across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. We believe that this initiative will play an effective role in improving overall health awareness, and encouraging the adoption of healthier lifestyles.”

HE Dr. Maha, also added: “We believe in the importance of making healthier nutrition choices and exercising regularly for both adults and children alike. Statistics indicate that only 27 percent of children are physically active for the recommended duration of 60 minutes per day. This health education program will inevitably contribute to our goal of achieving a 30 percent increase in this number by 2030.

The Iftah Ya Simsim initiative comprises a series of educational materials including activities for students, parents and teachers. The program also includes a student activity book, four songs, four short story books, four public service announcements, and a child health diary that centers on nutrition, physical activity, oral health, hygiene and vaccination. The overall campaign also incorporates the launch of an app to encourage the adoption of healthy habits through educational video games.

Eng. Hamad Al Dhaheri ADEC’s Private Schools & Quality Assurance Sector’s Executive Director, said that ADEC’s strategy emphasizes the importance of providing students with an optimal school environment where EHS standards and practices are highly maintained. “A student’s health plays an important role in achieving academic progress as well as boosts their motivation to engage in school activities. ADEC is keen on encouraging students to develop healthy habits, while integrating such knowledge in the curriculum in addition to the provision of healthy food in school cafeterias and canteens.”

He pointed out that such cooperation with HAAD and the “Iftah Ya Simsim” television Program aims to create an integrated health approach suitable for child growth, especially in early childhood.

“The program aims to increase children awareness about important health habits through communicating information interactively and enhancing communication between parents and schools on the one hand, and schools and the community on the other. It also helps promote a health culture among students and parents to eliminate any negative influence that could affect a student’s health and academic achievement,” said Eng. Al Dhaheri.

In 2015, HAAD, ADEC and Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) updated the schools canteen guidelines to promote public health among students throughout the Emirate. This included outlining the meals that should be served at schools, and encouraging students to follow healthy eating habits.

HAAD, ADEC and Bidaya launched the initiative in collaboration with Zayed Higher Organization, Ambulatory Healthcare Services, and TwoFour54.

- ADEC Media