KP Sharma

In an effort to cultivate healthy eating habit among school children and adolescents, the Social Behaviour Change Project, a groundbreaking pilot initiative, is poised to commence on July 14 in Paro.

This pioneering venture aims to tackle prevailing issues such as limited dietary diversity, excessive consumption of nutrient-deficient staples and processed junk foods, and inadequate intake of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and animal-based foods.

The campaign’s primary focus lies in promoting five key healthy behaviours.

These behaviours have been meticulously prioritised based on extensive research conducted to ascertain prevailing food consumption patterns.

The project will place significant emphasis on various areas, including diversifying diets, reducing salt intake, ensuring timely meal consumption, curbing the consumption of sugary and salty processed junk foods, and encouraging the consumption of nutrient-rich animal-sourced foods.

Beginning July and continuing until October 2023, the campaign will initially be implemented across 15 pilot schools situated in the dzongkhags of Thimphu and Chukha.

During the pilot phase, a total of 30 teachers, two from each of the selected schools, will undergo specialised training to effectively manage the implementation of programme within their respective educational institutions.

These appointed teachers will lead the initiative and assume responsibility for training other school staff members regarding implementation strategies and their significance.

A comprehensive monitoring plan has been developed to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of all campaign activities as outlined in the press release.

The initiative seeks to address various forms of malnutrition, such as micronutrient deficiencies, undernutrition, overnutrition, and obesity, among others, by striving to enhance the eating habits of Bhutanese individuals.

The campaign also aims to empower young children, adolescents, and their caregivers to make informed choices for a healthier future by employing innovative School Behaviour Change (SBC) strategies and actively engaging multiple stakeholders.

These comprehensive SBC efforts encompass a wide array of initiatives designed to involve school children, parents, and influencers, both internal and external to the educational system, in actively promoting healthy behaviours.

In a preliminary step undertaken in June, a baseline knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) survey was conducted. In October, a follow-up survey using the same random sample of students will be conducted to assess changes in food consumption patterns and other pertinent factors subsequent to their participation in the campaign.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL), has spearheaded this initiative.

Generous financial support for the project has been extended by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, further enabling the realisation of this pioneering campaign.