The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) yesterday held a sensitisation campaign about the growing challenge of Childhood Obesity facing the Caribbean.
In an online seminar yesterday, Doctor Kenneth Connell, President of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados, said that studies showed that presently one in three children is overweight or obese and it is linked to several non-communicable diseases.
“Childhood obesity is linked to cancer, heart disease and other risk factors in adult years. It is not just that it is linked if continued into the adult age but childhood obesity may be a risk factor.”
In response to this study, the HCC is pushing for a regional Call to Action (CTA) for Caribbean Heads of Government to enact laws to foster healthier food and lifestyle environments.
Professor Margaret Anne St. John, consultant in the Department of Pediatrics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, said that a study has shown that the children will be more likely to be obese if their parents were overweight.
“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,” she said.
Carolyn Shepherd, assistant vice president for marketing at SAGICOR Life, said that the private sector should get involved in addressing child obesity.
“The private sector has an important role to play in bringing about this change. 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.”
On the issue of advocating against companies that make junk food, Connell said that the best way is to expose their products for what they are.
“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,” Shepherd said.
Childhood Obesity facing the Caribbean has been linked to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease which are now responsible for six out of every ten deaths.
Jamaica has an Obesity Prevention Campaign, focused on a public education campaign and advocacy for policy change such as front of package nutrition labelling, tax on sugary drinks, and healthier foods in schools.