Youngsters urged to adopt healthy lifestyle to avoid diabetes

DUBAI — With the growing prevalence of diabetes in the UAE, especially among children, school managements and doctors are urging children to adopt a healthy lifestyle by engaging more in outdoor activities and cutting down on 'junk food'.

By Preeti Kannan

Published: Wed 14 Nov 2007, 8:49 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:36 AM

Dr Wafaa Ayesh, head of Clinical Nutrition and Diabetics Department at Rashid Hospital and co-founder of Sweet Kidz, a diabetes support group for children, says, "The incidence of diabetes is quite high among children. When we started the group a few years ago, we had just one child with diabetes, but we now have 270 kids of various nationalities."

She attributed this increase to the continuous use of play stations and the Internet by children. "Earlier children used to play football and ride bicycles, but nowadays they chat on the Internet or watch television for hours. Besides, fruits, salads and vegetables have been replaced by chips, candies and soft drinks in their diet," she said.

Observing that Type II diabetes had slowly become a common phenomenon in children, Dr Ayesh said schools ought to increase physical activities for the students.

She also stressed the need for nutritionists and dieticians to monitor school canteens regularly so that children get to eat healthy food.

Head of the Uptown School in Mirdiff, Elizabeth Loadwick, believes that schools and parents share an equal responsibility in raising awareness. The school, in fact, replaced the catering company last year in favour of another caterer which supplies healthy food.

"Here, students can buy carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and yoghurt. They can even make their own sandwiches. There are no fizzy drinks available in the canteen and the juices are all sugar free. We frequently invite parents to help with extra-curricular activities, where they learn about healthy eating. Swimming, basketball, football, rugby and other sports are integral," she said.

Today, the school's students will embark on a 246-step walk in line with the global campaign for the day, aimed to symbolically recognise the 246 million people estimated to be living with diabetes worldwide. They will also attend a workshop on healthy snacks.

Students from the Jumeirah College in Dubai will also be taking part in a walkathon on November 17 as part of the diabetes awareness campaign.

Russell Scott, a teacher from the school, said, "Experts have been invited to talk to our older students about diabetes. Apart from the walkathon, we have a range of extra-curricular activities that students can do. We have planned a 'Boot Camp on the Beach' in the afternoons for older kids. We are very keen on boosting the health of the students and this camp would stress on a military fitness routine."

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