According to World Health Organization studies childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century and has increased at an alarming rate. It was estimated in 2010 that the number of overweight children globally under the age of five was 42 million.
Considering these facts Saba has openly accepted the Jeugd op Gezond Gewicht (or JOGG – Youth on a Healthy Weight) programme spearheaded by Dutch politician Paul Rossenmuller ; an initiative created to encourage young people to maintain healthy weights by eating healthily and engaging in regular physical activity and exercise.
On November 14th, the covenant officially designating Saba a JOGG Gemeente was signed by Mr. Paul Rossenmuller and Health Commissioner Bruce Zagers at the Juancho Yrasquin Airport before the arrival of the Royal Couple during their recent visit to Saba.
Commissioner Bruce Zagers felt that JOGG would be an ideal programme for Saba and approached La-Toya Charles, Director of Foundation Social Workplace, to utilize her organizational strengths and interest in nutrition and physical activity, and James Granger, for his physical trainer accreditation from Sports Leiden Creatie and passion for fitness education, to co-coordinate the programme on Saba.
The overall aim for JOGG is to jump start and facilitate a massive health awareness campaign which will get the Saban community thinking and talking about healthy living and putting this mindset into daily practice. The programme will include ensuring that students have water bottles to drink a ready supply of fresh water throughout the day. It will cooperate with schools to ensure that students have healthy snack options available at their school and students will be provided with ample physical activities to ensure adequate exercise. Adults will also be educated about healthy lifestyles, nutrition and exercise so that they can easily transfer this knowledge and these healthy habits to their children.
The official kick-off on Saba will take place at the beginning of January.. The programme will run from January 2014 for duration of at least one year, with the possibility of being extended for a longer period. Charles and Granger are in The Hague this week for training with other JOGG directors from the Caribbean Netherlands
The idea is that JOGG will not be an isolated programme but will network with other organizations within the community that involve similar ideals. These include, the Saba Health Care Foundation and the Saba University School of Medicine, which organizes annual health fairs, and the Organoponics Farm, which hosts regular workshops to promote the importance of eating a balanced variety of fresh and organic products.
The JOGG initiative is also active within municipalities in The Netherlands since 2012, where it is estimated that 1 out of 7 youngsters in the age group 0 to 19 are on the verge of obesity. Now the programme has spread to the Caribbean Netherlands special municipalities of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
Press release GIS Saba, December 10, 2013
Want to read more about JOGG? Click here for their website (in Dutch)
This sounds like a wonderful initiative and I sincerely hope that this has a lasting impact on the Saban community. However, this article makes no mention of how the success of this programme is to be measured. Is it an increase in the percentage of children in the school system that have a good BMI? How about the amount of time children spend at programme activities? Or the support and satisfaction garnered by the programme? Do we even have this data? Are the baseline indicators? Simply put, without these considerations there is NO way to determine if this programme is a success or a failure.
Too often on Saba, these same kind of “initiatives” and “programmes” go into place without proper consideration of outcome, output or accountability measures. Then people wonder why programmes have little effects or does not receive support. Or worse yet, wastes public funds that comes out of tax payer’s pockets. To make change, you need to fully think about what is the problem, what factors sustain that problem, what can be done to alleviate that problem, how will we go about this, how will we measure success and how will we evaluate whether to continue the programme or not. We need to THINK about the programmes we are signing on to with a plan in mind and not just sign on because they SOUND good.