CHILD'S PLAY: Philpotts-Brown sharing a light moment with some of the young attendees at the recent launch of Heart Month in Kingston.
THE Heart Foundation of Jamaica wants to expand its education campaign in schools, as they look to boost efforts to get the health-lifestyle message to all parishes – “Healthy eating for a healthy heart.”
This decision is coming on the heels of the recent ban on sugary drinks at institutions across the island. “We have a schools’ education project that we started seven years ago, out of which we started the Healthy Hearts Clubs with 10 schools in two parishes, Kingston and St. Catherine,” says the HFJ’s Nola Philpotts-Brown (Senior Manager for Health Administration), speaking with journalists during a rap session and tour of their Beechwood Avenue facilities last Wednesday.
“We have to start educating them about eating right and the possible damages to the heart because of poor lifestyle choices. Kids are the ones, especially in the inner-city, who will bring home the message and influence their parents.”
On the eve of next month’s observance of Heart Month, Philpotts-Brown says the timing is perfect to establish more Healthy Heart Clubs. “At the moment, we are only in Kingston and St. Catherine because lack of funding stymies our efforts. Schools have been calling and asking us to come and help them set up Healthy Heart Clubs, and I think it’s very important that the public hears that we need help to expand this education campaign.”
What does the funding go towards? “We use the money to provide the clubs with resources and material. We have a health promotions officer who goes around and checks on the schools,” Philpotts-Brown explains. “The students are provided with snacks and exercise equipment. Some clubs have been helping themselves by putting on fruit sales and by collecting dues from members.”
To take the programme to other parishes, sponsorship would provide a huge boost. “We would love if sponsors could come on board with us,” the senior manager says, “and we would appeal to corporate to adopt schools that want to set up Healthy Heart Clubs.”
In the meantime, Philpotts-Brown welcomes the education ministry’s sugary drinks ban, which she says was catalyzed by the HFJ’s anti-childhood obesity campaign. “The ban supports our efforts to educate kids about the harmful effects that can come with the large intake of sugar. We have to reduce the consumption to reduce the damage,” she tells TALLAWAH, “and so the ban is helping us to get that message out there and with a wider reach.”