Nutrition Education in Fiji
I have recently returned from the adventure of a lifetime in Fiji. I travelled over there with a group of Nutrition Students - mostly from Monash University - to conduct a health screening and nutrition education program. Fijians (including Indo-Fijians) have incredibly high rates of Type 2 Diabetes, so our goal was to address this in a manner that raised awareness and inspired change.
Home Economics Classes
One of our means of providing nutrition education was via home economics classes conducted in a high school. We found that roti was a staple food in Fiji and was usually made with white flour. It was a key contributor to the excessive carbohydrate and high GI intake in Fiji and was something we focussed on addressing in our classes. We showed the groups a flat bread recipe using wholemeal flour and a leaf (dried and crushed) called Saijan (or Moringa) which is packed full of nutrients including Vitamin A and Calcium. The final product may have been green, but it was delicious and more nutritious than traditional roti!
We also made a Protein Packed Salad (chickpeas and roast veggies), healthy Bing Boy Crepes with a tuna and vegetable filling, and a vegetable packed Fried Rice. Fried Rice in Fiji is traditionally made with a large amount of rice and very small portion of vegetables, so turning this recipe on its head was very successful!
Zumba and Physical Activity Classes
Unforruntely it is common in Fiji (and probably everywhere in the world) that once children finish school many of them stop being physically active and choose to priorities familial life (particularly in the case of females). As a result, we chose to run a Zumba/yoga/dance class for both Primary and Secondary School children where we showed them that there is more to exercise than just organised school sports.
Showing children that exercise can be fun is crucial to their enjoyment of movement in later life, and these children were the perfect example of just how fun it can be!
The children were cheering and getting involved and even called for an encore which we happily provided!
House to House and Community Screenings and Nutrition Counselling
Another element of our education program was the screening and nutrition counselling that we conducted both in peoples' homes and in community centres.
We conducted blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol tests and followed this up with general nutrition counselling concerning dietary changes that could be made to improve the results.
Largely, the recommended changes related to the type and amount of carbohydrates that were being consumed. We also made suggestions relating to oil and salt intake as these were deemed key contributors to the high blood pressure observed.
We worked alongside nurses and doctors who provided medical interventions in extreme cases.