Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Children: Expert Insights on School-Based Prevention Strategies

“Schools play a vital role in shaping young minds and have a significant opportunity to prevent NCDs,” explains the expert.

Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases: Expert Explains Ways To Prevent Children From NCDs At School
Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases: Expert Explains Ways To Prevent Children From NCDs At School

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have become a significant global health challenge, impacting individuals of all age groups. While traditionally associated with adulthood, there’s a growing concern about their prevalence among children. Schools, being influential institutions in shaping young minds, present a crucial opportunity to prevent NCDs and promote lifelong health. To provide insights into this, we interviewed Dr. Smriti Pahwa, Regional Director for North India at Arogya World.

Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases: Expert Explains Ways To Prevent Children From NCDs At School

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs are responsible for 41 million annual deaths worldwide, comprising 74% of all fatalities. Among these, cardiovascular diseases account for the majority of deaths (17.9 million annually), followed by cancer (9.3 million), chronic respiratory diseases (4.1 million), and diabetes.

“Childhood diabetes rates in India have surged three-fold over the past 30 years. More than 10% of India’s children, as young as five years old, are reported to be pre-diabetic. Additionally, 75% of adolescents engage in insufficient physical activity,” Dr. Pahwa added.

NCDs: Prevention is Key

NCDs: Prevention is Key

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and certain types of cancers, are predominantly influenced by lifestyle factors.

To combat NCDs effectively, adolescents should be prioritized as target groups for interventions. This is due to their high adaptability and propensity to be motivated for adopting appropriate lifestyle changes. Additionally, many of the risk factors for NCDs are behaviorally acquired during adolescence. Therefore, ensuring the health of the next generation should be a central focus area, emphasizing early intervention efforts.

Education as a Foundation

Incorporating health education into the school curriculum empowers children to make informed decisions about their well-being. Dr. Pahwa listed the following topics to be integrated into their routine:

1. Importance of balanced nutrition
2. Dangers of excessive sugar and salt consumption
3. Benefits of regular physical activity

Furthermore, Dr. Pahwa emphasized that health education should not only focus on theoretical knowledge but also include practical skills, such as cooking healthy meals and cultivating an understanding of food labels.

Physical Activity Programs

Dr. Pahwa outlined the following physical activity programs to aid in preventing NCDs:

1. Prioritizing physical education in schools to ensure students participate in age-appropriate exercises.
2. Initiating sports clubs, dance classes, and outdoor play within schools to make physical activity enjoyable and accessible for all students.
3. Collaborative efforts between educators and parents to minimize sedentary behavior, such as prolonged screen time.

Physical Activity Programs


Nutrition-Focused Initiatives

“Schools play a vital role in shaping children’s eating habits, and therefore, they should provide nutritious and well-balanced meals prioritizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins,” emphasized Dr. Pahwa. Furthermore, schools should limit the availability of unhealthy snacks and beverages. Educating students about the nutritional value of different foods and the consequences of excessive consumption of processed foods is essential.

Creating Supportive Environments

Creating Supportive Environments

Dr. Pahwa added, “Schools must strive to create a supportive environment that fosters healthy behaviors beyond academics. This involves promoting mental health and stress management, as these factors can influence lifestyle choices. Implementing wellness policies that address physical activity, nutrition, and mental health can guide schools in creating an environment conducive to overall well-being.”

Involving Parents and Communities in Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Collaboration between schools, parents, and communities is essential in combating non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Dr. Pahwa suggested the following measures:

1. Parental involvement can extend the impact of health education and reinforce healthy habits at home.
2. Schools can organize workshops, seminars, and community events to engage parents in discussions about NCD prevention.
3. Community partnerships with local health organizations, fitness centers, and nutritionists can provide valuable resources and support.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Dr. Pahwa highlighted, “To ensure the effectiveness of NCD prevention strategies, schools should implement monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Regular health assessments, including physical examinations and screenings, can help identify potential health risks among students. Feedback from students, parents, and teachers can inform adjustments to existing programs, making them more responsive to the evolving needs of the school community.”