School's 'couch potato' promotes better health habits

Health ambassadors from Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) with their campaign mascot P.E.Z, which stands for passionate, energetic and zealous. The school held a pledge-taking event yesterday with students committing to reduce their suga
Health ambassadors from Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) with their campaign mascot P.E.Z, which stands for passionate, energetic and zealous. The school held a pledge-taking event yesterday with students committing to reduce their sugar intake and increase physical activity.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' is among 20 schools partnering NHG to encourage healthy living

A blushing potato called P.E.Z has been adopted as the new health mascot for Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary).

P.E.Z - which stands for passionate, energetic and zealous - is a couch potato striving to become active and healthier.

The brainchild of four Secon-dary 3 students, P.E.Z appears in posters and educational videos as part of the school's new health campaign launched in collaboration with the National Healthcare Group (NHG).

The girls struggled to juggle the project with other commitments but group member Turaba Alam, 15, said they took up the challenge because "we want people to make this change".

The school held a pledge-taking event yesterday with students committing to reduce their sugar intake and increase physical activity.

Between 11 and 13 per cent of the school's 1,300 students are overweight, and part of the health plan is to get them to drink 15,000 litres of water within three weeks - about 11 litres per student.

Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' is among the first of around 20 schools that NHG is partnering to promote health literacy and awareness, and the campaign has shown promising results since its launch in January.

 
 

Dr Audrey Tan, senior consultant of population health at NHG, said: "Embracing healthy habits from a young age is important because it not only reduces the risk of health problems later on in life, but it is also harder to modify behaviours when young people develop certain lifestyle habits as they grow older."

Students took part in a sugar-free cooking competition and a drinks challenge to consume beverages containing less than 5.5g of sugar.

Teachers said the students have been receptive, by attending the health events even though they are not compulsory, while the school's drink-stall vendor said he sees two or three students switching to low-sugar drinks each week.

NHG has partnered non-profit organisation Care Singapore (CareSG) to train 30 of the school's students to be health ambassadors.

Each class volunteer spent two hours learning nutritional facts and communication skills to help her pass on health advice to their peers.

School principal Quek Li Gek said: "Students involved in the development of the campaigns see themselves as change-makers."

Health ambassador Jesslyn Chng, 15, said: "Our presentations make a lot of difference because we try to choose topics that students can relate to."

Ms Sabrina Ho, manager of population health at Living Well Office under NHG, said the campaign aims to take a "more holistic approach" to promoting healthy behaviour.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'School's 'couch potato' promotes better health habits'. Print Edition | Subscribe