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Study of Dietary Pattern of Students in Primary Schools 2012 (with photo)

     The obesity rate among primary students has continued to show a declining trend and primary students' healthy eating practices have shown improvement, as revealed by the Department of Health (DH) today (December 12) in the Study of Dietary Pattern of Students in Primary School 2012.

     According to the latest figures from the Student Health Service of the DH, the obesity rate among primary school students in the school year 2011/12 dropped to 20.9 per cent. The corresponding rates in the school years 2009/10 and 2010/11 were 22.2 per cent and 21.4 per cent respectively.

     "We are pleased to confirm a decreasing trend in the obesity rate among primary students. The achievement is a result of the concerted efforts of schools, parents and students, as well the support of various stakeholders in the community," said the Assistant Director of Health (Health Promotion), Dr Regina Ching, at a press conference today.

     To tackle the problem of childhood obesity, the DH launched the Campaign in the school year 2006/07 to raise public awareness and concern about healthy eating among children and create an environment that is conducive to healthy eating in schools and the community. Multi-pronged strategies have been used including alliance building, publicity and advocacy, education and empowerment, creating a supportive environment and conducting research and evaluation.
     Under the Campaign, the DH and the Education Bureau have, among other initiatives, co-organised an EatSmart School Accreditation Scheme (ESAS) since the school year 2009/10 with an aim of fostering healthy eating in schools in a sustainable manner. In order to attain an accreditation status in the ESAS, participating schools have to fulfil objective criteria for implementing administrative measures, providing healthy lunches and snacks as well as carrying out education and publicity. This is to guarantee all accredited schools can uphold a nutritionally friendly school environment for children. As at November 30, over 200 primary schools have participated in the Scheme, accounting for about one-third of the total number of primary schools in Hong Kong. Currently, 69 schools have attained accreditation under the Scheme.

     The Study of Dietary Pattern of Students in Primary Schools 2012, which aims to better assess and quantify schoolchildren's dietary habits in Hong Kong, was conducted by the DH in April to June this year in 75 primary schools. The Study covered 25 schools which have attained accreditation status under the ESAS and another 50 randomly selected schools, involving primary four and five students, their parents (around 10,000 students and 10,000 parents responded) and school representatives. Apart from issuing questionnaire surveys, investigators also conducted site visits to schools to collect lunch box samples for analysis.

     Presenting the findings of the Study at the press conference, Dr Ching said that over half of the parents supported schools to implement administrative measures to promote healthy eating. Whilst there had been an increasing proportion of schools establishing a healthy eating policy, improvements in healthy eating behaviours amongst primary students were also noted. When comparing schools attaining ESAS accreditation with schools in general, the former performed better in generating parental awareness of the DH's healthy eating promotion, offering healthier lunch and snack items and raising the level of nutrition knowledge among students.

     "In view of encouraging results revealed by the Study and the further drop in the child obesity rate among primary school students, I wish to call on schools, parents, food suppliers and the community for continued and enhanced support for the Campaign," said Dr Ching.

     With Christmas just around the corner, Dr Ching wished all students, parents and teachers a merry Christmas. She further reminded schools to take heed of the following advice when organising healthy Christmas celebrations:

1. Traditional Festive Foods
* Many conventional Christmas foods, such as Christmas cake and chocolate, are high in sugar and fat. While teaching children about healthy festive eating, schools should limit the supply of festive foods that are high in sugar and fat content. Teachers and parents should also explain the nutritional facts of these foods to children, as well as remind them of the consequences of overeating.

2. Food Items from Suppliers
* Food items (including party foods) provided by lunch suppliers, tuck shops or vending machines should comply with the recommendations contained in the "Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students" and the "Nutritional Guidelines on Snacks for Students" published by the Department of Health.

3. Tips for Bring-a-Dish Parties
* Prepare the right amount of food, and present it in smaller portion sizes;
* Use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling, baking, pan-frying and quick stir-frying to reduce fat intake;
* Include grains and cereals such as penne pasta, rice sushi and low-fat cheese and egg sandwiches. These are rich in carbohydrates and are the main source of energy;
* Vegetables are nutritious and filling. Prepare dishes such as broccoli with cheese and assorted vegetables stir-fried with garlic;
* Choose lean meat, eg lean pork chops, chicken, diced beef and fish fillets;
* Limit processed meats and deep-fried foods, eg sausage, ham, luncheon meat, shrimp toast, spring rolls and curry puff pastries;
* Serve plain water as the main drink. Small amounts of low-sugar drinks such as low-sugar soy milk and low-sugar Chinese beverages can also be prepared. Drinks containing caffeine such as coffee and tea should not be offered to children; and
* Choose fresh fruits as dessert, eg fresh fruit skewers and mixed fruit cups.

4. Other Arrangements
* Arrange for two to three group games. "Find the Leader", "Collector" and "Blow Wind Blow" are fun examples. They not only encourage physical activity among children but also shift the focus of the party from food to games; and
* Avoid giving out Christmas food treats as gifts. Consider stationery items, stickers, storybooks and toys as gifts. Sports equipment such as footballs, basketballs and skipping ropes are brilliant ideas for exercise and fun.

Ends/Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:14


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