Problems experienced by children in the first five years of life can, have the potential to impact a child into middle childhood and beyond, meaning action to address these are critical.
School Medical Inspections have revealed a significant number of school-aged children with health problems. 2013 FHB data shows that 41% of all students reported having recently experienced some type of medical problem. Poor nutrition continues into later childhood with one third of school-aged children recording a low BMI for their age, 11.5% exhibiting stunting and 11% showing signs of anemia. The prevalence of stunting increases with age from 9.9% at 6 years to 21.1% at 12 years. Obesity is also a growing concern and increases rapidly with age, from 1% of children under five to 9.6% of school children aged 6-12 years. (Nutritional status, dietary practices and patterns of physical activity among school children aged 6-12 years, MRI 2016).
Despite public investment in school health and nutrition in Sri Lanka, the health and nutritional status of school age children requires attention. Existing policies are weak and fragmented, and there is no overarching policy on school health and nutrition. This has led to inefficiencies and poor program design, which is further compromised by limited monitoring and evaluation.
A paucity of quality water and sanitation services combined with poor knowledge of appropriate hygiene practices greatly increases the risk of infection and disease. This means that caregivers are unable to identify gaps and are less likely to seek quality services. Schools, where children spend most of their time, do not integrate health promotion concepts and life skills development sufficiently, nor do they widely implement standardized delivery of water and sanitation.