Significant findings from a CADRES poll probing child obesity in Barbados released today revealed that over 80 per cent of the citizens interviewed are worried about this rampant epidemic among our youngest citizens.
And there’s good reason for the concern. The devil is in the details.
Child obesity is the gateway to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs): lifestyle illness such as strokes, heart attacks, cancer, and high blood pressure; in sum, obese children become sick adults.
Only recently, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George said it is estimated that by 2030, 86.3 per cent of all deaths in Barbados would be caused by an NCD if the current trends were not addressed.
This burgeoning crisis, according to Director of the Barbados Heart and Stroke Foundation, Professor Anne St John, is being fuelled by our poor food and drink choices.
She told today’s media launch of the survey: “A Barbados student population survey revealed that 18.5 per cent of children ate fast food three to four times a week, 73.3 per cent drank at least one carbonated beverage high in sugar a day, and 15 per cent had no vegetables or fruit in the past month.
According to CADRES pollster, Corey Sandiford, the Barbadians surveyed between November and December last year in all 30 constituencies confirmed that data.
He said: “More than 80 per cent of the respondents said eating big portions, fast food, unhealthy foods, lack of exercise, and drinking beverages high in sugar were major contributors.”
Most telling, though, was the respondents’ suggestion that while they want action and are ready to act, Government must lead the way.
They have identified the cheap availability of unhealthy foods compared to healthier, more expensive alternatives.
Indeed, it is hard to escape the reality that overwhelming quantities of processed foods line the nation’s grocery shelves. The discounts are usually on sugary and salt-laden snacks, canned and processed foods.
Consequently, the relatively low prices of processed foods make them attractive to families on tight budgets. Fruits and vegetables, even the local ones, are costly.
If we intend to tackle this spiralling epidemic, then they will have to seriously address the high cost of foods. We suggest the Government starts with the basket of goods.
It is not enough to impose a ten per cent tax on soft drinks to deter consumption on sugary beverages. Consumers also need discounts on healthy foods to encourage them to make wiser choices.
The group surveyed also urged Government to improve school meals, restrict and limit the sales of unhealthy foods, sugary beverages and advertising of unhealthy foods at schools.
All valid points indeed, but what of our own responsibility?
Many Barbadians simply do not take good health seriously.
Good health, now and in later years is not the responsibility of someone else. We must all take a look at the man, or woman, in the mirror.
We have to make the right choice if we don’t want to end up a statistic.
Virtually all of us know a friend, a relative, a co-worker, or a neighbour who is grappling to cope with the debilitating effects of cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
We sympathise, but somehow, we go on believing that “it can’t happen to me”.
Healthy living does not necessarily require a whole series of complex changes.
But small, determined steps make all this difference.
Choose to buy a banana, instead of chips.
Opt to start a garden as a family project, rather than sourcing all your fruits and vegetables at the supermarket. Better yet, visit the market and support a local farmer.
Park the car, walk up the stair, go to the beach. Ditch the television, the cell phones, the tablet.
In sum, get moving. Your life and that of countless Barbadians may depend on it.