Beirut, 18 October 2010: Both established in 1866, the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Nestlé have joined hands 144 years after their mutual birth to help bring a healthier future to the children of the Middle East through the launch of the “Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Program – Ajyal Salima,” a coming together of an AUB initiative and a global Nestlé program – Nestlé Healthy Kids – which share the common aim of entrenching nutritional awareness, better eating habits and a more active lifestyle among 9-11 year-old schoolchildren. The collaboration also entails a three-year research aspect, to be conducted by AUB thanks to a grant provided by the Nestlé Healthy Kids Nutrition Research Fund.
Speaking at a signing ceremony – which brought together Nestlé Middle East Chairman & CEO Yves Manghardt, AUB President Dr. Peter Dorman, AUB Provost Dr. Ahmad Dallal, and Dr. Nahla Hwalla, Dean of AUB’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FAFS) – Hwalla provided examples of growing weight epidemics among the region’s children from obesity surveys done by AUB showing the percentage of overweight youths aged 6-19 in Lebanon grew from 20 percent in 1997 to 35 percent in 2008, with a doubling in obesity rates.
“The objective of the Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Program is to raise nutrition, health and wellness awareness of school age children around the world because childhood is the vital stage for promoting obesity prevention, and education is the single most powerful tool for ensuring children understand the value of nutrition and physical activity to their health,” said Manghardt.
“There is a clear need to draw on the latest scientific evidence to take action as we are doing with Nestlé now, and to further recommend mobilization efforts to governments, international agencies, and local communities,” said Dorman.
“Although being overweight should be considered a disease on its own, it is also one of the key risk factors for other conditions including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and some forms of cancer,” added Hwalla.
The “Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Program” is part of Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value – “which is a fundamental part of Nestlé's way of doing business. It means that for a company to be successful, it should not only create value for shareholders but also for society at large,” explained Manghardt.
Launched in New York in 2009, it will be progressively unveiled in all countries where Nestlé operates directly, reaching 80 programs by the end of 2011. Already well-established programs include Nestlé’s NutriKid in Switzerland, EPODE in France, “Nutrir” in Brazil, and “Good Nutrition” in Russia.
“This collaboration is being done with AUB, the region’s leading education and nutrition research institution, which is why it also includes research projects over the coming three years aiming to assess and address nutritional problems in children in the community and implement sound interventions for positive behavioral and lifestyle change,” concluded Manghardt.
Implementation varies according to local needs, with the Middle East Program developed as a component of a thesis for PhD completion entitled: “Interventions to promote Healthy eating and Physical activity in Lebanese schoolchildren” by celebrity nutritionist Carla Habib Mourad with advisory guidance from Dr. Hwalla.
“Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Program – Ajyal Salima” involves 12 educational sessions spread over 3-4 months which include interactive learning on nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity; and questionnaires to track improvement. It encourages intake of a balanced and varied diet; fruits and vegetables consumption to 5 or more a day; breakfast and healthy snacks; and regular physical activity; as well as controlling high fat, high sugar intake; and reducing time spent watching TV or on computers. It also involves supporting school snack shops in providing kids with healthier options.