A University of the West Indies researcher has again raised alarm about the skyrocketing rates of obesity among children and adults in Barbados.
Speaking during Tuesday’s presentation of a $143,983 cheque in support of the Barbados Diabetes Reversal/Remission Study 2 (BDRS-2) by the Massy Foundation, Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre (GA-CDRC) Professor Alafia Samuels underscored the findings of a study, carried out six years ago, which showed that two-thirds of the adult population was overweight, while one-third of the island’s children suffered from obesity.
The 2012 Health of the Nation Study was conducted by the GA-CDRC on behalf of the Ministry of Health.
Most alarming, Samuels said, was the number of 20-year-olds who were susceptible to non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.
“The 20-year-olds now are the weight that their mother and grandmothers are, and they are going to continue to gain weight during life,” Samuels warned, while blaming unhealthy eating practices.
“Part of this problem is the environment in which we live, the marketing of unhealthy foods in the schools, on the radio, on the TV . . . . We are having marketing now that is promoting and encouraging unhealthy eating and obesity,” she said during the presentation ceremony, which took place at Massy’s Dome Mall headquarters.
The GA-CDRC director further warned that many of this island’s youth were at risk of pre-diabetes, diabetes and other health conditions, such as hypertension, and she stressed that it was the responsibility of individuals to take care of their health.
Samuels also reiterated her earlier suggestion that Government’s ten per cent tax on sweet drinks should be increased to 20 per cent, as recommended by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.
“The tax was not high enough . . . because if you are doing all of these unhealthy things you may as well pay down on your hospital admission in the future,” she said, while noting that after the tax was imposed in 2015 purchases for water increased by eight per cent.
The second phase of the Barbados Diabetes Reversal/Remission Study will include 100 participants from four churches on the island – Mount of Praise Wesleyan Holiness, River Road New Testament Church, Abundant Life Assembly and Ellerton Wesleyan Holiness Church.
Samuels said the year-long study would contribute towards public education programmes and initiatives aimed at strengthening disease prevention and control.