Under the patronage of the Professor Mohammed Albaili, Vice Chancellor of United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the work of the consultative meeting entitled ‘Stepping up School-based Food and nutrition Education: Exploring Challenges, Finding Solutions, Building Partnerships’ was opened in Rehana Rotana Hotel, Al Ain. More than 63 experts and specialized consultants in nutrition and behavioral change participated in the meeting as well as a number of UN Advisors. The meeting aimed to exchange ideas and opinions and find evidence-based and experience-based solutions to enhance the quality of food and nutrition education with the focus on the low-income countries. The meeting is considered a platform to review the materials and the strategies of teaching food and nutrition programs with the aim of enhancing nutrition awareness practices as part of school nutrition program. Professor Bhanu Chowdhary, Dean of College of Food and Agriculture (CFA), greeted the participants and extended to them the greeting of the UAEU Vice Chancellor, wishing them a success in reaching the results, which will promote the nutrition education and find solutions to face challenges and create partnerships.
He pointed out that the fast lifestyle and the eating habits in UAE are common features in many other countries. This includes the high consumption of animal products, fat, sugar and salt as well as low physical activities. The UAE government places a great emphasis on this issue. The ministry of health has adopted a strategy that focuses on health and nutrition awareness and to improve the eating habits. The UAE witnesses an increase in diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, and high blood pressure. People in the UAE are at higher risk of developing diet-related health problems. In 2000, 24% were having excessive obesity, while the percentage increased to 60% in 2014. The UAE is ranked among the 13% countries with obesity and overweight, which is a source of health concern in UAE. Professor Chowdhary explained that the CFA trains students in different programs on these issues. The college offers diverse programs accredited by AFN and ACEND. It also cooperates with a number of international prestigious universities across the world to create a common research and practical foundation. The college will conduct a nutrition survey in countries in need for strategies to enhance health awareness.
Dr. Fatima Hashim, FAO Nutrition Team Head, explained that there is a need to review the teaching strategy used in nutrition and food awareness in order to encourage children and adults to adopt healthy nutrition practices. Dr. Aysha Al Dhahri, Assistant Dean of CFA, stressed that introducing local dietary, horticulture-based education and school meals as well as identifying healthy eating habits for children and their families are pivotal factors in enhancing the healthy nutrition system and prevent mal-nutrition. Alongside the meeting, a number of workshops were held, focusing on the modern educational practices to enhance nutrition awareness in schools and explore ways of promoting and expanding school nutrition education.
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