The Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima program recognized the FAFS Nutrition Department for its contributions in setting benchmarks for global programs promoting healthy eating and physical activity among schoolchildren. The award from Cuprifere Consult, an independent international entity that assessed the implementation of Nestle Healthy Kids programs around the world, lauded the step-by-step partnership approach of AUB, the Ministry of Education, and Nestle Middle East and the program’s teacher training as exemplary for other Healthy Kids programs worldwide.
With national obesity surveys conducted by AUB showing a doubling in obesity rates and the percentage of overweight youths aged 6-19 in Lebanon growing from 20 percent in 1997 to 35 percent in 2008, the Ajyal Salima curriculum was developed by AUB under the name of “Kanz al Soha” to answer specifically to Middle Eastern community issues and address nutritional habits and requirements*.
It was launched in Lebanese public schools in 2010, with subsequent studies showing it leads children to consume two times the amount of fruits and vegetables, watch 37% less television, eat breakfast and drink water twice more frequently, and have about 40% less chips and 36% less sweetened drinks.
This has led to its full adoption into the Lebanese Ministry of Education’s school Health Unit Programs in 2014, and roll out in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Palestine over the past eight years.
Ajyal Salima entails 12 educational sessions per round, including interactive learning and hands-on activities on nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity; as well as questionnaires developed to track improvement of children from pre to post interventions.
The program also involves parents, and has been accompanied since 2012 by a Ministry-decreed school canteen shop policy providing children with healthier food options.
Reaching around 40,000 public and private school students in Lebanon to date, Ajyal Salima targets 9-14 year-olds and is currently adding 50 more schools a year, having reached over 300 across the country so far.
*Three publications on Health-E-PALS pilot study of Salima in Lebanon: Habib Mourad et al. Education and health August 2014. Habib Mourad et al. BMC Public Health Sept 2014. Habib Mourad et al. Frontier in Public Health; April 2015-0005.