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Source: New Zealand Governor General

Kia orana kōtou katoatoa.

It’s my great pleasure to be here today, in support of the launch of this Healthy Schools Programme.

I wish to acknowledge: Ms Rose Toki-Brown, Minister of Health; Ms Engia Baxter, School Principal; and Mr Bob Williams, Secretary of Health.

I’d also like to acknowledge the leadership and work of Te Marae Ora in developing the Healthy Schools Programme, which I understand is already running with great success in Atiu. I’m very pleased to be here to see the launch of this initiative here at Apii Avarua.

As many of you may know, I’ve spent my own career in the field of public health – across both academia and government. Caring for the health and wellbeing of our tamariki, whānau, and communities is a cause extremely close to my own and Dr Davies’ hearts.

I’ve carried that lifelong pursuit into my role as Governor-General, where one of my key priorities is oranga: preserving the health, vitality, and wellbeing of our communities and the natural world.

I understand the harm caused by non-communicable diseases here in the Cooks Islands – and it is an issue we share in New Zealand. But we know that the best way to prevent health issues in our adults is to start with healthy habits in our children.

There have been many studies to show that children’s eating habits have an effect on academic performance. When students eat a healthier diet, memory and concentration levels improve, and energy levels are higher. A healthy diet also provides the right fuel for development, and for both physical and mental wellbeing.

There is also research that shows that providing students with a varied diet at school might lead to those students exploring new and different kinds of food – to be more adventurous, and to make dietary choices with issues of sustainability and a climate change in mind.

I’m sure the Healthy Schools Programme will have a great and lasting impact on the wellbeing of the Cook Islands. So, my sincerest thanks to all involved in the launch of this wonderful initiative.

Manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata, haere whakamua.