ProCare, a leading healthcare provider, has today called for healthy drink provisions in both primary and secondary schools in Aotearoa as part of its submission to the Ministry of Education’s consultation regarding the proposed changes to the promotion and provision of healthy drinks in schools.
The introduction of new regulations would see a strengthening of the requirements so that schools can only provide healthy drinks.
Bindi Norwell, Group Chief Executive at ProCare, says “Promoting healthy food and nutrition in primary and secondary schools across Aotearoa will help ensure we’re setting our rangatahi up for a healthier future.
“This is extremely important at a time when the dental services across the country have said that there are significant backlogs in seeing children in dental surgeries as a result of COVID lockdowns. In Auckland alone, the Auckland Regional Dental Service (ARDS) is talking about more than 186,000 primary and intermediate school children being overdue for a visit to the dentist, and that it will take more than a year to catch up,” she points out.
“By introducing new regulations this would mean that schools can only provide healthy drinks to students on a daily basis, and it would bring schools in line with the healthy drinking standards in the Ka Ora Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches programme, and existing guidance from the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Active Learning programme,” she continues.
Dr Sue Wells, Clinical Director (Population Health) at ProCare, says: “We have a duty to advocate on behalf of the communities we serve, and addressing Aotearoa’s obesity and tooth decay epidemic starts with positive education on healthy food and nutrition. This need needs to be underpinned with regulatory action that models healthy behaviours.”
While strengthening the requirements so that primary schools can only provide healthy drinks is a step forward, ProCare has advocated on seeing this extended to include secondary schools as well.
“Not extending the requirement to provide healthy drinks in secondary schools, as well as primary schools, is missing a critical opportunity to shape the future of our children and young people,” points out Wells.
“ProCare practices care for 152,000 school aged children (aged 5-19) across Tāmaki Makaurau, 22,000 of whom are Māori and 26,000 are Pasifika. Worryingly, by the age of five, approximately 60% of Māori and 70% of Pacific children examined by the ARDS have dental decay. We need to ensure our schools are not adding to the burden through unhealthy drinks, and instead model healthy behaviours and wellness for our children,” she concludes.
The Ministry of Education is looking to bring these regulations in by the end of this year before current NAG guidelines lapse.