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Posted at: Jun 23, 2016, 1:55 AM; last updated: Jun 23, 2016, 1:55 AM (IST)

ICMR backs health accreditation of schools

To fund unique project in all institutions in Chandigarh, Hyderabad in country’s first such experiment
ICMR backs health accreditation of schools

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22

With childhood obesity rising, the health research wing of the government is toying with the idea of promoting fit and trim schools by piloting a framework for their accreditation on health-related indicators.

In what will be the first experiment in India with grading “Health Promoting Schools (HPS)”, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will fund a unique project to accredit all schools in Chandigarh and Hyderabad for their efforts in health promotion.

The basis of the plan is a recent successful intervention in 17 schools of Chandigarh which showed improvement in health-related indicators at the end of the project. Led by Dr JS Thakur of the PGI, Chandigarh, who has developed the first HPS accreditation manual of India, the study graded UT schools on bronze, silver, gold and platinum standards and found that these improved their standard after implementing the accreditation framework.

“We covered eight government and nine private schools of Chandigarh from 2011 to 2013. In 2011, only 25 per cent government and 22 per cent private schools had gold standards. This proportion increased to 62 per cent and 89 per cent, respectively, by 2013. Overall, the proportion of gold schools increased from 23 in 2011 to 76 in 2013,” said Thakur.

Based on Chandigarh results, the ICMR will now fund Thakur’s HPS accreditation project for all Chandigarh and Hyderabad schools, with plans of a nationwide rollout later. “The project aims at making school-goers healthier,” Meenakshi Sharma, ICMR scientist involved with the initiative, told The Tribune on the sidelines of the National Non-Communicable Diseases conference here.

The idea is to address childhood obesity. Global School Health Survey India recently revealed only 30 per cent students were physically active for at least 60 minutes per day on all days of a week. Another study showed the prevalence of overweight among schoolgoing adolescents at 5.5 per cent.

In fact, the HPS is not a new idea, but Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation to have implemented it since the Global School Health Initiative —  1995 of the WHO first called for increasing the number of HPS schools worldwide.

In India, Chandigarh was the first city where schools volunteered to participate in the HPS accreditation. Although the Quality Council of India has developed accreditation standards for school governance in India, it was Thakur who first evolved an organised accreditation manual for HPS schools in India.

The HPS concept can help prevent poor dietary habits and substance abuse among students, decrease the risk of eating disorders, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer among them, thereby addressing the NCD burden.

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