Inspirational day

Inspirational day of health and fitness for schools across Qatar

Children, teachers, friends and families united under a banner of health, fitness and education for the annual staging of The Challenge.

The Challenge is part of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar’s (WCMC-Q) flagship health campaign, Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First, and saw hundreds of middle school children from 20 schools across Qatar compete in a series of physical tasks in the main arena of the Aspire Zone. Each team of ten was vying to be crowned champions and secure the coveted Challenge Trophy.

Now in its second year, The Challenge promotes the importance of exercise and fitness and aims to encourage young people to take up sport or a physical activity. It also endeavors to engage with young people and their families to inspire them to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, which will help build a strong and healthy future generation. This is in line with the broader aim of the Sahtak Awalan campaign, which is to help create a healthy nation, able to contribute to the knowledge-based economy in line with the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030 and the National Health Strategy 2011-2016.

The five-year initiative – that was launched in 2012 – has won high-profile support and is organized by WCMC-Q in conjunction with the Supreme Council of Health and in partnership with Qatar Foundation, the Supreme Education Council, Qatar Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum of Qatar, ExxonMobil Qatar Inc., Qatar Olympic Committee and Vodafone Qatar.

The Challenge, held on March 8, was attended by a host of VIP guests who turned out to lend their support to the students. The competitors were also supported by hundreds of family and friends who cheered them on from the stands.

His Excellency Abdullah Bin Khalid Al-Qahtani, Minister of Public Health, today praised WCMC-Q’s Sahtak AwalanYour Health First campaign for its critical role in raising public health awareness among both the Qatari and expatriate communities through its many initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles.

HE the Minister said that Your Health First initiatives had caught the attention of the nation’s youth and attracted wide participation from Qatari schools. These initiatives include The Challenge 2014, which aims to demonstrate determination and persistence through sports and physical fitness.

HE also praised the Poster Competition, which encouraged students to conduct their own research into the region’s most pressing health problems.

“It is extremely exciting to see our students prepare research posters for the Poster Competition on a wide range of health issues including obesity, the benefits of a healthy diet, and the health risks of smoking,” HE said. “By doing so, they have a voice in building a healthy future for all in Qatar.

“To attain the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030 and Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2011-2016 we not only need to build new hospitals and launch medical institutions. It is just as important that we increase health awareness in the community and this requires the efforts of us all,” HE added.

HE reiterated the Supreme Council of Health’s (SCH) commitment to supporting all initiatives that contribute to raising health awareness in Qatar and praised the cooperation between SCH, WCMC-Q and all partners involved in the Your Health First campaign.

His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Abdul Wahed Al-Hammadi, Minister of Education and Higher Education and Secretary General of the Supreme Education Council (SEC), praised the wide participation of independent and private Qatari schools in the public health awareness campaign Your Health First (YHF), and hailed the partnership with WCMC-Q and the SCH.

HE said: “YHF aims to spread knowledge about current health issues and promote healthy lifestyles among school communities in Qatar. This will eventually contribute to building a healthy society.”

“By instilling the ideas of healthy lifestyles and nutritious food choices into the minds of school children today we ensure healthier generations in the future,” added HE the Minister

HE Dr. Al-Hammadi also stressed the importance of education and health as two central pillars in human development – the main focus of Qatar National Vision 2030 – noting that education and health complement each other.

“There is no proper education without health and a well-rounded education should address the needs of both the body and mind. Needless to say that schools can be the starting point where healthy habits can be developed,” HE concluded.

HE Dr. Al-Hammadi thanked all of YHF’s stakeholders and reiterated the SEC’s willingness to support YHF in the coming years as it contributes to achieving its education and training goals, particularly in the fields of physical education and research.

His Excellency Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General and CEO of Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) said: “From the very beginning, Qatar Olympic Committee has supported The Challenge fitness contest that is organized by Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar under its Your Health First initiative.

“The Challenge and Your Health First reflect the mutual goals of QOC and the other partners to increase awareness of the benefits of adopting an active and healthy lifestyle. The Challenge perfectly demonstrates the importance of education and exercise, which are two essential pillars in achieving that goal. At QOC, we are proud to be supporting such an inspiring initiative in line with our Sport Strategy, aimed at achieving the objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030.”

In addition to the interschool contest, The Challenge also offered the audience the chance to have their health and fitness professionally assessed through the use of a body analyzing machine and the AGE (advanced glycation end products) reader. The latter measures the amount of sugar-containing proteins in the body and can provide an indication of the likelihood of cardiovascular disease in later life. The former provides participants with a full breakdown of the components of their body – the amount of muscle, fat and bone that they are carrying. It also gives an indication of a person’s metabolic age as opposed to their chronological age.

On top of this there were a host of games designed to challenge and promote physical fitness and competition. These included the distance kick, where participants were able to see how far they could kick a football; the bungee run, where contestants could race a friend before being catapulted backwards; and the sprint challenge to discover who was the fastest over 10 meters. For those who had worked up an appetite cheering on the students, fresh fruit was distributed and healthy snacks were available from several food stalls.

Engineer Saad Al Muhannadi, President of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development said: “Qatar Foundation is keen to engage in various activities, which have been designed to raise awareness among community members about the importance of health and fitness. These efforts are in keeping with our ongoing community development initiatives, which play a crucial role in helping us fulfill the mission and goals of the organization as it works towards achieving Qatar National Vision 2030, as well as Qatar’s National Health Strategy.”

Engineer Al Muhannadi added, “The most significant aspect of this event is that it is targeted towards the younger generation, since they will be leading the country’s future development.  Our youth are the leaders of tomorrow and it is vital that they are equipped with sufficient knowledge about the value of choosing a healthy lifestyle, in order to create a healthier and more productive community. Qatar Foundation is delighted to be a part of this challenge and we are confident that all participants will emerge as winners and achieve success, regardless of whether they come in first place.”

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCMC-Q, said: “The Challenge is a wonderful way to bring students from all over Qatar together to enjoy the fun and excitement of taking part in a physical contest. It was so encouraging to see the level of energy that the students brought to the event – they all competed with great enthusiasm and in a spirit of friendly competition that was a pleasure to watch.

“After the success of last year’s competition, it is very pleasing to see The Challenge return for another successful installment, made possible by the generous support of the Supreme Council of Health and the rest of our partners. This will help us ensure that the event continues as annual celebration of health and fitness that the entire community of Qatar to enjoy. The Challenge is a great way to inspire young people and their families to take up regular physical activity and to learn about the positive lifestyle habits they need to adopt to keep themselves in good health.”

The day culminated with the award of The Challenge Trophy by Dr. Saleh Al Marri, Assistant Secretary for Medical Affairs at the SCH, to the winning teams in both the boys’ and girls’ categories. In the boys’ competition, first place was clinched by German School, while the girls’ contest was won by the team from International School of Choueifat. All of the members of the two winning teams were presented with iPads as prizes.

The event, which is now in its second year after a successful launch in 2013, also saw the announcement of the winners of the educational Poster Competition, judged by a panel of experts from WCMC-Q and the Supreme Council of Health. Students were challenged to research the most serious health issues facing Qatar and make posters to present the information. The posters were displayed in public at The Challenge and the creators of the ten best posters were awarded iPads as prizes.

In total, The Challenge and the Poster Competition brought together more than 300 students, and 27 teams took part in the physical competition.

Mr. Abdulrahman Abdulla Al-Obaidly, Manager for Public Relations and Communications of Qatar Petroleum, said: “Making students realize at an early age the value of regular exercise and proper nutrition is key in helping ensure that they stick to healthy lifestyle choices as they grow older. Qatar Petroleum is proud to support the second edition of The Challenge as part of the Your Health First campaign, and we are confident that all the participants will apply in their day-to-day lives the lessons they have learned during the event.”

Stephen A. Kelly, President and General Manager of Oxy Qatar, said: “Advancing healthy lifestyles is a priority that we are particularly proud to support through the Sahtak Awalan campaign. The Challenge exemplified our commitment by providing a unique opportunity for students to learn about healthy lifestyle practices and actively participate in promoting positive nutrition and fitness choices. Education-enhancing engagement and direct participation among the younger generation are critical to maintaining a healthy future for Qatar. Oxy is very pleased to be a partner in this important initiative, and we look forward to The Challenge becoming an annual success in Qatar.”

Bart Cahir, President and General Manager of ExxonMobil Qatar Inc., said: “ExxonMobil Qatar is proud to join its partners the Supreme Council of Health and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar to support Your Health First and The Challenge for the second year in a row. We believe that it is our responsibility as an active member of Qatar’s local community to better inform young people on the benefits of healthy behaviors and habits, and The Challenge presents the ideal platform to do so. The various educational and physical activities help encourage participating students to make decisions that will positively affect them as capable, healthy and active participants in their communities.”

Kyle Whitehill, Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Qatar, said: “It was great to see the inspiring energy of all these young people coming together to celebrate and promote a healthy lifestyle and be true role models for their peers under the flag of Your Health First campaign. At Vodafone Qatar, we are determined to be admired for our approach and our performance on health and safety and therefore we are proud and happy to join hands with the Supreme Education Council and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar to support the growth and development of a healthy young generation.”

The schools that took part in both The Challenge and the Poster Competition were Al Hekma International School, Hammad School International, English Modern School, International School of Choueifat, Cambridge School, AbuBakr Assedeeq Boys Preparatory, Hamza Bin Abdul Muttalib School, Abu Obaida School, Canadian School, German School, Iranian School for Boys and Girls, English Modern School (Al Khor), Ali Bin Abi Taleb for Boys, Osama Bin Zaid, Al Ahnaf Bin Qais Independent for Boys, Dukhan School for Boys and Amna Bint Wahab.

Luca Dohlus, aged 15, was a member of the winning boys’ team from German School. He said: “We were really surprised and happy that we won. It was hard work and the other teams were very good but I think we managed to win because everyone on my team worked together very well and gave their best performance. It was great fun to take part and so good to win.”

Lina Al Haj, aged 12, was on the winning girls’ team from International School of Choueifat, which also fielded the winning girls’ team last year.

Lina said: “I enjoyed it a lot. Although we lost a few of the games we eventually won and the races were so much fun; I liked that they were games rather than sport. It was all really good fun and very challenging as all the other schools were really good.”

The schools that took part in the Poster Competition only were Fatma Bint Waleed, Al Ghwayriya, and Um Saiid.

Winners of The Challenge 2014

Boys Competition:

1st: German School

2nd: English Modern School

3rd: Canadian School

Girls Competition:

1st: International School of Choueifat

2nd: Hammad School International

3rd: German School

The winners of the poster competition came from Al Ahnaf bin Qais Independent School for Boys, Amna bint Wahab Independent School for Girls, Hamza Bin Abdul Muttalib School, Al Hammad International School, English Modern School Al Khor, Canadian School and German School.