Youngsters are to play a crucial role in laying the foundations for a healthy future with the launch of a national campaign to tackle spiralling rates of childhood obesity.
Announced at the recent Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity Forum, Eat Clever is an initiative created for children by children with the aim of empowering them to take ownership of their eating habits.
“The facts don’t lie: childhood obesity levels in the Middle East are catastrophically high and getting higher,” emphasised Jon Duschinsky, the event’s keynote speaker who launched the new campaign.
“It feels like it’s getting to the point where it’s not just becoming an economic or public health issue, but it’s becoming a societal crisis,” he added.
The scheme, which will work with a group of children aged 12 to 16, aims to redefine how they see food and give them the tools to make better choices, as well as working with healthcare, education, government and corporate partners.
“[Previously], we’ve been asking people to make changes to their behaviour, but we’ve not actually given them the tools, nor have we empowered them to make informed choices,” Jon explained.
“Working with communities is key, and kids are part of that,” he added. “We wanted to start with them and create a whole new language around food that talks about what it’s good for and provides food intelligence. Then, we want them to share it – with their peers, with adults.
“We don’t know if this is going to work,” Jon reflected. “But what we do know is that collectively, governments and institutions are throwing bucket-loads of money at this problem and it’s not getting better. We need to try something new.”