Barbados has made significant progress in combatting epidemics of childhood obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases through the development and implementation of a number of tools and strategies but there is still more work to be done.
Word of this came Friday from acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Anton Best, as he delivered remarks at UNICEF’s Launch of the State of the World’s Children Report 2019, at Radisson Hotel.
According to Dr Best, of the tools and strategies being used are Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for Barbados; Guidelines for Healthy and Nutritious Foods in Schools; Age-Specific Guidelines for Physical Activity and Exercise; and an initiative which protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding.
“Furthermore, our National NCD response is in line with the World Health Organisation Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020, which articulates targets for reducing the major risk factors. Through our National Nutrition Programme, we will continue to be proactive in educating the public on issues related to nutritional health.
“But with such a grave and dire situation before us, we readily acknowledge that a whole lot more needs to be done to successfully improve the health of our children and to protect future generations. So I stress again that we need to improve food environments so healthy options are affordable, convenient and desirable for children and families,” he said.
In addition, Dr Best stressed that if the Sustainable Development Goals were to be achieved by 2030, then investing in nutrition for children and young people was a cornerstone investment.
Stating that the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MHW) was grappling with epidemics of childhood obesity and NCDs in the adult population in Barbados, he said a key strategy to assist in arresting these grave challenges was to focus on childhood nutrition.
The Chief Medical Officer noted that the WHO’s Global School Health Survey 2012, which is a population-based cross-sectional study undertaken in 26 secondary schools in Barbados, indicated the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children to be 31.5 percent and 14.4 percent, respectively. He pointed out that the proportion of girls who were obese was slightly higher than boys. The survey, he said, also indicated that children were not achieving the recommended level of physical activity and exercise, and that consumption of healthy diets was low.
Dr Best told his audience: “It is clear that we have a major problem on our hands; one that is complex and driven by a myriad of interrelated social, economic and cultural factors. And because of the multifaceted nature of this problem, a ‘whole of government’ approach is warranted.
“The MHW can’t do it alone nor can the Ministry of Education. It is therefore imperative that we at the MHW partner with key stakeholders to combat this threat. Such allies include other Ministries and government departments, civil society partners such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados and the Healthy Caribbean Coalition…” The Chief Medical Officer said a recent press announcement from the UNICEF Headquarters declared that poor diets were damaging children’s health worldwide. The report is said to provide the most comprehensive assessment ever of 21st century child malnutrition in all its forms.