Obesity among schoolchildren and concerns on teen pregnancy remain among the biggest challenges for the Public School System, according to PSS associate commissioner for instruction and services Jackie Quitugua.
She revealed that based on PSS records, only 56 percent of students from kindergarten to high school have healthy weight, which means that 44 percent of schoolchildren have weight problems-either underweight or obese.
Quitugua said this statistic was based on the body mass index (bmi) recorded in 2011. “Obesity is still a major challenge. Although we have seen some decrease [in some years], the data is still a big concern and until such time that everyone-including parents and agencies-are not taking their part, this [problem] will remain,” she told Saipan Tribune.
This week, a health summit that aims to bring this awareness to all stakeholders is slated to take place on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
The “Healthy Children Healthy Future” conference will start today, Oct. 29, at the Rota Resort. The event will focus on wellness program and childhood obesity prevention. On Oct. 31, the same event will take place at the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino.
Both conferences are open to the public.
For Saipan, the summit will be held at the Fiesta Resort & Spa on Nov. 2 and 3 from 8:30am to 3pm where parents, educators, private sectors, and community members are invited to participate in the discussion.
According to Quitugua experts from abroad will facilitate this event.
Quitugua said PSS expects that after the health conference, participants will walk away with more knowledge and ideas on what they can do to prevent obesity among children. She described the conference as a holistic approach that would bring all parties together for a common goal.
51% high school students engaged in sexual acts
Quitugua also bared that besides obesity, PSS is also focusing efforts in addressing the high number of teens who admitted engaging in sexual acts that potentially may lead to teen pregnancy.
Based on a survey conducted among high school students, records show that 51 percent of the respondents admitted engaging in sexual acts. This record, according to Quitugua, was as of school year 2011 and was done as part of PSS requirement with the federal Center for Disease Control.
Quitugua said prior to 2011 “self-reported” data, the statistic was higher. However, the associate commissioner said that PSS had seen an “increase” in the number of students who are now using condoms, based on the survey they took.
PSS will be conducting its youth risk behavior survey in 2013. The associate commissioner said PSS had seen the strong coloration between health status, learning, and academic performance of students.
Last week, Quitugua reported to the Board of Education that this school year PSS can expand its health programs-specifically on teen pregnancy-after it secured a $250,000 federal grant that was coursed through the Hawaii Youth Network.
Quitugua said PSS has been partnering with the Hawaii organization on teen pregnancy program and trainings but this is the first time a funding was allocated for CNMI program. The $250,000 was from Human Health Services and will be utilized for three years.
During a recent PSS Close Up Summit, participating students from public and private high schools emphasized the need to see an expanded program on teen pregnancy issue to totally eliminate the long time problem among teens.