Mar 30, 2015, updated March 2015
To address the growing problem of obesity in Lebanon, Nestlé joined forces with the American University of Beirut to jointly roll out the Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima programme in 2010 to schoolchildren aged nine to 11, with the support of the Lebanese Ministry of Education.
National obesity surveys in Lebanon have revealed that the percentage of overweight youths aged six to 19 grew from 20% in 1997 to 35% in 2008 (1). Worryingly, obesity rates also doubled in the same period.
Obesity in the country was found to be mainly due to poor dietary practices, with the least physically active teenagers and children as the most overweight.
The World Health Organization also estimated in 2008 that obesity affected adults in the country, impacting on nearly a third of women aged 20 and above.
The prevalent health condition also affected nearly a quarter of men in Lebanon in the same age range and time period.
The Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima programme is based on an educational curriculum scientifically developed by the American University of Beirut, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences.
It aims to promote nutritional knowledge; better eating habits and an active lifestyle among schoolchildren aged nine to 11.
The educational part of the programme is founded on the social cognitive theory to promote behaviour change, and is implemented through interactive learning and hands-on activities in nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity.
It looks to impact on teachers, school shops, parents and families to boost healthy lifestyles for youngsters (2).
Thanks to published science-based evidence (3), and as a result of the programme’s national roll out on the knowledge and eating behaviours in children, the Lebanese Ministry of Education officially adopted the Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima programme into its mandatory Health Education Unit’s curriculum in public schools in 2014.
As part of the four-year partnership between Nestlé and the American University of Beirut until 2017, a cohort study was kicked off in 2014 to collect and analyse data on the progress of participating schoolchildren over the long term, measuring their knowledge, attitude, behaviour and Body Mass Index.
Value to Society
To date, the Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima programme has reached about 11,000 children, 800 parents and more than 140 schools directly in Lebanon.
More than 320 teachers and health coordinators have been trained nationwide as part of the initiative.
Value to Nestlé
The Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima programme establishes a global competitive advantage and demonstrates Nestlé’s commitment to address health issues globally. It also has a positive impact on Nestlé’s reputation as a leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness company.
In Lebanon, the programme is making an impact across the country through the Health Education Unit framework of the Lebanese Ministry of Education.
It has been replicated in Dubai and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in collaboration with local health and educational entities.
The programme is expected to launch in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2015.
(1) Nasreddine L, Naja N, Chamieh M.C., Adra N, Sibai A.M., Hwalla N: Trends in overweight and obesity in Lebanon: evidence from two national cross-sectional surveys (1997 and 2009). BMC Public Health 2012, 12..798.
(2) Habib-Mourad C., Moore H.J, Nabhani-Zeidan M, Hwalla N, Summerbell C. Health-E-PALS: promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Lebanese school children – Intervention development. Educ Health 2014, 32: http://sheu.org.uk/x/eh321chm.pdf
(3) Habib-Mourad C., Ghandour L.A, Moore H.J, Nabhani-Zeidan M, Adetayo K, Hwalla N, Summerbell C. Promoting Healthy eating and physical activity among school children: findings from the Health-E-PALS, the first pilot intervention from Lebanon. BMC Public Health 2014, 14:940 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-940.