Learners and schools benefit from Health in Action Programme

By: Mondelēz and INMED on 07 February 2023

Learners and schools benefit from Health in Action Programme

The number of children consuming vegetables on a daily basis in 342 schools in at-risk communities in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape has increased by 494% between 2019 and 2022, thanks to the Health in Action (HIA) programme by non-governmental organisation, INMED South Africa, and the Mondelēz International Foundation. 

The programme, which was rolled out in two phases (Phase I: 2015-2019 and Phase II: 2019-2022), is focused on reducing obesity rates and promoting healthy lifestyles for children. It combines participatory education in nutrition and healthy choices, with access to fresh food via school gardens and regular break-time fitness activities, which are led by INMED-trained unemployed youth.

The second phase of the programme focused on spreading the programme’s reach and impact to develop a sustainable healthy lifestyle culture in schools and their surrounding communities.

As the implementing partner, INMED South Africa – an affiliate of INMED Partnerships for Children, has a vast knowledge and experience in developing programmes focusing on challenges that are unique to South Africa. Their local expertise in health and social enterprises ensured that the programme’s impact was measurable as well as meaningful for the parties involved. 

Through their peer-to-peer system, the different schools in the programme were able to communicate and learn from each other, thereby creating an ongoing feedback loop with the opportunity for broader learning amongst the schools and their learners. 

Unathi Sihlahla, Programme Director, INMED South Africa says the second phase of the programme reached about 315,000 children and 6,974 educators in the three provinces.

“When we started this phase of the programme, a mere 16% of children reported eating vegetables every day. Now, just two years later, this figure has increased to an astonishing 95%.”

This is a significant statistic, especially in light of a South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-1), which reported a combined overweight and obesity prevalence of 13.5% in children aged between 6 and 14 years. This is markedly higher than the 10% prevalence in school children globally.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the basic cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. This is as a result of an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars combined with a decrease in physical activity.

The success of the second phase of the HIA programme is particularly notable because it was rolled out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to eating more vegetables, more children are taking part in 30 minutes of physical exercise (or more) on a daily basis, up from 61% in 2020 to 90% in 2022.

The report indicates that participants’ knowledge of nutrition and healthy lifestyles also increased by 124% from 33% in 2020 to 74% in 2022. All of this has led to an improved body mass index (BMI) – that is children in the ‘normal’ BMI range – from 73% in 2020 to 78% in 2022.

Navisha Bechan-Sewkuran, Mondelēz International Corporate & Government Affairs Lead: Sub Saharan Africa, says while Mondelēz International is a leading producer of snacks, it is committed to inspiring consumers to snack mindfully, with the emphasis on savouring their snacks without overindulging. “Our purpose is to empower people to snack right by offering the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way.

“The Health in Action programme is close to our hearts, because we understand how important nutrition education is for children. Our seven-year partnership with INMED has been highly rewarding and we salute the 227 Mondelēz volunteers, who put their hands up for the second phase of the project, contributing 669 hours of their time to make the initiative a success.”