Today, 7 April, millions of people around the world are highlighting the significance of World Health Day. This year the theme is “Our planet, our health” and the World Health Organisation is focusing global attention on the urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy, and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.
In South Africa 34% of households with children reported child hunger over the last year and a third of households said that hunger and access to nutrient-dense foods and fresh fruit and vegetables were amongst their greatest challenges.
Local NGO, INMED SA, has been running a Health in Action (HiA) programme, in conjunction with Mondelez International, for the last six years and this innovative schools-based programme has demonstrated its enormous potential to positively influence the health of these communities.
Phase 2 of the programme launched in January 2020, with the objective of spreading its reach and impact to develop a sustainable healthy lifestyle culture in schools and communities.
Dr Sandra Pretorius, HIA Programme Manager says the second phase was particularly important as it focused on education and training, including workshops with educators on nutrition, food gardens and aquaponics, and nutrition linked to the curriculum subjects. “We are also training community members to grow their own food gardens, and teaching the benefits of exercise and eating a healthy diet,” says Pretorius.
The success of the programme is really heart-warming. Pretorius says in just six years, two of which were badly impacted by Covid, the teams have managed to establish productive vegetable gardens at 200 primary schools in Gauteng and Eastern Cape reaching 100 000 learners. They have also provided 150 households and community gardens with training, seeds and compost to improve access to fresh produce and alleviate hunger and malnutrition.
“If we are to make any significant change it is so key that we drive preventative programmes that are sustainable and address the broader issue of food security. A comprehensive approach which encompasses physical activity, access to nutrient-dense food and education is the only way to address and impact positive health outcomes in the future,” concludes Pretorius.