Friday 27 November, 2020

Childhood obesity now an 'epidemic', says Sir Trevor

The ever increasing dependence on imported food and diet typical of developed countries has replaced the traditional diet in the region.

This among other practices has been identified as reasons for the increasing cases of obesity in the region and Barbados.

President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC)) Sir Trevor Hassell believes that the growing obesity in Barbados is now an epidemic and due to unhealthy diets and physical practices.

Addressing a forum hosted by the Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Foundation (BNCF) at the Savannah Hotel recently he noted statistics from a UN Report in 2015 which revealed that BD$64 million was spent on the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, with the economy likely losing as much as BDS$145 million annually due to missed work days, low productivity and reduced workforce participation.

He says these Non Communicable Diseases in adults often are derived from bad eating habits that starts from an early age – this as he links obesity in youth to the incidences in adults.

“There has been a shift away from diet based on locally grown indigenous staples  to diets that are more varied and energy dense, consisting of foods and beverages that are more processed,” he elaborated.

He told those gathered for the forum that a WHO Global School Health Survey of 26 schools carried out in Barbados in 2012, revealed the prevalence of overweight was 31.5% and obesity was 14.4%.

In other surveys in Barbados; 18% of students reported consumption of fast food three or more times per week; 73.3% reported drinking one or more carbonated beverages per day and 15.5% or the sample reported no consumption of fruit and vegetables within the last month. With respect to physical activity, 70% reported low levels and 65.3% of children engaged in sedentary activity after school hours.

With these statistics Sir Trevor said actions must be taken immediately to arrest the situation otherwise the implications can reap havoc to the health sector and also place an even greater economic burden on Barbados.

Against this background The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), PAHO, Barbados Ministry of Health and the HCC have produced strategic plans all aimed at addressing the childhood obesity “epidemic”.

Among the recommendations is the need for increased levels of physical activity among school-aged children by reintroduction of periods of compulsory physical activity. Prohibiting advertising and promotion of junk food in schools by fast food companies. Prohibiting sugar sweetened beverages from being available and sold on school premises and an increase in the tax in sugar sweetened beverages to a level that will result in these beverages being more expensive than healthier options. 



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