New policy to increase enrollment, reduce health risks in schools

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11 June 2018, Harare - Today Ministries of Health and Education with the support of four United Nations Agencies (UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO) launched the Zimbabwe School Health Policy to advance positive health determinants while preventing and mitigating health risks among all 4 million learners and their 37,000 teachers.

Acting UN Resident Coordinator and WFP Representative, Mr Eddie Rowe said since most adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe still spend most of their time in school, implementing a robust school health programme increases the reach of health promotion interventions in this age group.

“HIV remains a significant public health concern in Zimbabwe especially among adolescents and youths, therefore, the School Health Program provides an opportunity for us to step up HIV prevention efforts among young people, and to promote adherence for those young people who are already on treatment,” said Mr Rowe.

The policy envisions for “A primary and secondary education system with an enabling environment for the provision of equitable, sustainable and quality health services for all learners.”  The vision resonates with the agenda for Universal Health Coverage.

Noting that most social behaviors that influence alcohol and drug abuse are formed during the school going years, Mr. Rowe said, “the school has an important role to promote positive behaviors to curb these lifestyle ills.” Mr Rowe urged the Ministries of Health and Education, development partners and stakeholders to work collectively to transform the strategies outlined in the policy document into practical programmes, plans and activities to ensure that all leaners benefit from the provisions of the policy.

The school Health Policy will also address Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) through Mass Drug Administration, Vitamin A and Iodine deficiencies; prevention of cancers such as cervical cancer through HPV vaccination among other public health interventions.

Noting that countries with the greatest demographic opportunity for development are those entering a period in which the working-age population has good health, quality education, decent employment and a lower proportion of young dependents, Mr. Rowe said, “Zimbabwe has a largely young population and investing in school health can help to spur economic growth and in the process, ensure that Zimbabwe harnesses the demographic dividend.”

Mr. Rowe reiterated the United Nations commitment to support Zimbabwe to adopt education system as cost-effective platforms for providing simple, safe, and effective health interventions to school-age children and adolescents.

The launch, which was held at Blakiston primary school in Harare, was attended by the Ministers of Health and Child Care, and Primary and Secondary Education, other senior Government Officials, members of the UN family, development partners and civil society representatives, and hundreds of students and teachers.