The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) launched their outreach for the prevention of Childhood Obesity at The St Michael School on Monday.
The launch seeks to curb the current statistic of one in three children being diagnosed as overweight and/or obese with the signing of a petition asking Government to make the curbing of childhood obesity a priority.
Executive Director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition Maisha Hutton said childhood obesity is a major problem in Barbados and the Caribbean.
“It is a problem because when you are overweight or obese in childhood it increases your chance of diabetes, high blood pressure,” Hutton said, adding that the petition seeks to ensure that Government implements policies that encourage a lifestyle change.
“This petition is a call to action asking our heads of government to make this a priority. We want them to implement policies in the schools [and] the community that make it easier to make healthy choices. When we say healthy choices, we mean eat healthy foods, we mean exercise and cut out the junk. We are not saying have no junk; we are saying to have less junk than you normally do,” she said.
Director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition Sir Trevor Hassell said the petition also aims to reduce the availability of sweetened beverages within schools.
“We in the HCC are particularly encouraged by the support being given by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to improve the school environment [by reducing] the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages [in] our schools. So this initiative is aimed at advancing that call to action,” Hassell said, adding that Government has made steps in the right direction with the ‘sugar tax’.
“The Government has been contributing significantly through appropriate policies and legislation. You are aware of the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages which is a part of the reduction of obesity both in adults and children,” he said.
Hassell highlighted that private entities needed to play their part.
“We also need the private sector to step up to the plate and reformulate their products so they are for the most part, healthier,” he said, adding that the HCC will be working furiously to ensure that the private sector works to revamp the items that they sell to children.
“This is an area we will be seeking to address as we move forward,” he said.
Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Bostic said the statistics for overweight and childhood obesity provide Government with the information needed to implement policies to curb the current rates of obesity as well as Non-Communicable Diseases.
“The statistics do not lie and [they] provide the opportunity to come up with some policies to deal with these problems. It is for these reasons that the Government of Barbados changed the name of the Ministry from that of Health to Health and Wellness,” Bostic said, adding that wellness is important for Government to move from curative to preventative policies.
Senator Dr Crystal Haynes played an interactive game with students in which they had to identify items on a table which contained more than one 25 gramme serving of sugar.
At the end of the launch students as well as teachers signed the petition calling the Government to action in implementing a policy to curb childhood obesity. (LG)