School girls smoking in old building

The previous survey of this age group was for the 2003 to 2004 school year. (MABAT is the Hebrew acronym for health and nutrition condition.) More Arab students eat some kind of breakfast, fewer smoke cigarettes or hookahs and fewer eat while watching TV or while using computers or smartphones.

However, 9% of boys and 7.2% of girls in the Arab sector go to sleep hungry, compared to 5.2% of Jewish boys and 5.6% of Jewish girls who do so.

The group studied was divided roughly in half between male and female students in some 1,500 intermediate and senior high schools. Of those, 3,548 were Jewish and 2,045 were Arab students.

All the pupils in the study were surveyed in person by representatives of the Health Ministry’s Center for Diseases Control.

The teens were asked about their eating habits, whether and how much they exercised, and if they smoked cigarettes or water pipes (also known as nargilas or hookahs).

Their weight, height, body mass index, hip and mid-arm circumferences were measured.

They were also asked about their body image, food allergies and knowledge about nutrition and health. They were asked about what they ate regularly and what they specifically ate on the day before the interview.

The survey included youngsters in state and national religious intermediate and senior high schools – Jewish, Arab, Druse and Beduin – but not in ultra-Orthodox, private or dormitory schools.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, commenting on the findings, said good nutrition among children is a national goal, because eating habits acquired in youth help determine eating habits in the years to come.

Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who headed the committee, said the “figures in the survey speak for themselves. The addiction to sugar, salt and saturated fat in children is devastating. Everyone deserves to have a healthful lifestyle.”

“We have great responsibility as parents and a society,” he said, not mentioning the differences between Arabs and Jews.

Litzman said: “I believe that education and prevention can reduce morbidity [disease] in the country, and it begins with children. I intend to do everything I can to implement the [recent] recommendations of the public committee for better nutrition, and I see all segments of the economy joining this effort.”

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