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Regional Call to Action (CTA) for Caribbean Heads of Government to enact laws to foster healthier food and lifestyle environments

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Photo Caption: Graphic on healthy diet by The Healthy Caribbean Coalition, (HCC)

By: Tito Chapman

SKN PULSE – The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) sensitisation campaign about the growing challenge of Childhood Obesity facing the Caribbean is gaining momentum in its quest to address overweight and its link to non-communicable diseases. In doing so, fostering healthier eating and good lifestyle habits are the main goals.

As part of their media blitz held on June 27th, a team consisting of Doctor Kenneth Connell, Professor Margaret Anne St. John and Carolyn Shepherd helped to give insights into what the Caribbean is faced with backed by facts and insights; as well as the objectives and actions necessary to overcome such obstacles.

President of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados, Kenneth Connell revealed that studies showed that presently one in three children is overweight or obese. This is linked to several non-communicable diseases.

Photo Caption: Childhood Obesity

He emphasized that, “Childhood obesity is linked to cancer, heart disease and other risk factors in adult years.”

Due to this development, the HCC regional Call to Action (CTA) for Caribbean Heads of Government to enact laws to foster healthier food and lifestyle environments through graphics and video content is timely.

According to consultant in the Department of Pediatrics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, Professor Margaret Anne St. John eloborated on the point that a study has shown that the children will be more likely to be obese if their parents were overweight.

She explained that, “in the cultural approach to this condition, if one parent is overweight there is a 40 percent chance of the child being overweight. If two parents are overweight, [there is an] 80 percent chance of them being overweight.”

Alot of the factors that may contribute to obesity stems from the sale of goods, (junk food) from large companies and are resold by the private sector. Conell presented the view, that the best way to deal with junk food is to expose these large company products for they are.

Shepherd reiterated, “One strategy is to expose in clear view in their aggressive marketing of their product. Sometimes, they have the ability to disguise their products as healthy options. So, saying it is low-salt or it is the healthy or the lean version but it is just packaged that way.”

Carolyn Shepherd, the assistant vice president for marketing at SAGICOR Life, opined that the private sector should get involved in addressing child obesity. She believes, “the private sector has an important role to play in bringing about this change.”

She echoed the sentiments that “We must all work together – individuals, communities, companies, [non-governmental organisations], the private sector and our individual and collective governments across CARICOM to fight the impact of [non-communicable diseases] and the impact they are having on our lives and society, both economically and socially.”

Photo Caption: Snippet of Slide on Prevention

Childhood Obesity facing the Caribbean has been linked to non-communicable diseases and to reverse such trends prevention strategies have to be reinforced. Fruits, water, vegetables and more physical activity must become the norm.

If every island can implement an obesity plan like Jamaica, it would do the Caribbean a whole lot of good.

They have an Obesity Prevention Campaign, focused on a public education campaign and advocacy for policy change.

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