His Excellency Dr. Walid Bin Khalifa Al-Maneh, Ministry of Health Undersecretary, has launched in Bahrain the "Ajyal Salima" nutrition education program during a ceremony celebrating the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and Nestlé Middle East, and the launch of program-related Train the Trainers workshops. The event was also attended by Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Dr. Mariam Al Hajry and other officials from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.
Al-Maneh highlighted that the Ministry of Health is undertaking the responsibility of devising policies and programs aimed at tackling unhealthy habits among children and youth, including poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles. He stressed that international surveys show obesity rates to have reached 40% and sedentary lifestyle rates 23% among 13-15 year-old students in Bahrain, emphasizing that obesity is one of the most important risk factors for chronic diseases.
Al-Maneh said the implementation of the Ajyal Salima program is aimed at enhancing awareness of basic nutrition and physicial activity requirements among children, stressing that various versions of the program have been implemented in more than 84 countries around the world.
He said Ajyal Salima was first launched in the region in Lebanon in 2010, in partnership with the American University of Beirut, and has since spread to Dubai in 2012, Saudi Arabia in 2014, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2015, and Palestine in 2016, implemented in collaboration with Ministries of Health and Education and local health and education-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in those countries.
Al-Maneh added that Ajyal Salima is a comprehensive program based on partnerships, science, and impact measurement through questionnaires to determine its reflection on student behaviors, and ultimately on the long-term health of children in Bahrain. The program is also aligned with the Ministry of Health’s objective to offer high quality preventive health services through efforts integration, partnerships, and inclusivity.
The Undersecretary added that Ajyal Salima is in line with the goals of the World Health Organization to address childhood obesity, and supports the eradication of malnutrition through sustainable development. The program fits with the Gulf region’s strategy for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, and includes Train the Trainers workshops developed and delivered by American University of Beirut experts to enable select teachers in the Kingdom to ensure its messages reach students in a clear and interesting manner.
"We look forward to working closely with the Ministry of Health and collaborating with the Ministry of Education on ensuring that Ajyal Salima is as successful in Bahrain as it’s been in other parts of the region,” said Nehmatallah Younes, General Business Manager, Nestlé Bahrain.
“We aim to enable healthier and happier lives through our Nestlé for Healthier Kids initiative, under which Ajyal Salima is being implemented and expanded in the region,” he added. “From leading research in children nutrition, to product innovation and introducing healthier foods, to education and innovative nutrition and lifestyle programs and services, our global ambition is to help 50 million children lead healthier lives by 2030.”
“Tackling the growing triple burden of malnutrition: under-nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies can only happen through more partnerships between academia, the private and public sectors on programs such as the science-based Ajyal Salima,” said Dr. Carla Habib Mourad, Lecturer of Nutritional Sciences at the American University of Beirut, and regional scientific coordinator for Ajyal Salima.
The launch ceremony concluded with Al-Maneh signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Nestlé and honoring participants in the program, before a commemorating photo was taken.
Ajyal Salima will reach around 2,000 students in Bahrain during its pilot run this school year.
The program’s implementation in Bahrain is starting with “Train the Trainers” workshops, designed and delivered by American University of Beirut experts to equip nearly 30 teachers and health educators to run it successfully in 4th and 5th grades under the supervision of the school health units at the Ministries of Education and Health.
About Ajyal Salima
Reaching over 90,000 public and private school students in the region to date, Ajyal Salima targets 8-14 year-olds with a curriculum developed by the American University of Beirut under the name of “Kanz Al-Sohat” to answer specifically to Middle Eastern community issues and address nutritional habits and requirements.
It entails 12 educational sessions per round, including interactive learning and hands-on activities on nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity. It also includes questionnaires developed to track improvement of children from pre to post interventions.
For more information, please contact:
Lynn Al Khatib
Media Relations Manager, Nestlé Middle East