Message from Dr Alafia Samuels on the occasion of World Obesity Day
In Barbados nearly 2,500 children between 10 – 19 years of age have hypertension because they are obese. Is your child one of them? Children this age would not have hypertension if they were normal weight. In addition, more than 200 children between 10 – 19 years of age have type 2 diabetes, another disease being caused by obesity. Across the Caribbean more and more of our children are getting these largely preventable chronic diseases.
We need to do better for our children. In most countries in the Caribbean, too many are obese – more than 10%. And poorer children are the worst affected.
In Barbados, the obesity/overweight figure for 9-10-year-olds is about 30% and projected to be 50% by 2030. Around a third of children’s calories now come from sweets, drinks, salty snacks and fast food. One fast food company, Chefette, even tries to entice customers at an early age with branded supplies (pens, pencils, calendars, etc) that students look at every day in their classrooms…
Too many of our children are eating too much and moving too little. In every CARICOM Member State surveyed, less than a third aged 13-15 get the recommended level of physical activity.
These facts are clearly alarming. We are storing up a huge disease burden which will take a heavy toll on our children, our communities, our countries.
So what do we do?
Let’s use this World Obesity Day, with its theme of ‘overcoming childhood obesity’, to focus our minds.
Let’s work to make sure that our children live in an environment that promotes healthy living and healthy eating, that doesn’t encourage the consumption of food and drinks that are bad for them.
Let’s support the CARICOM Heads of Government in their recent call to ban advertising of harmful foods that target children and raise taxes on foods high in sugar, salt and trans fats.
Let’s tax sugar-sweetened beverages and use some of that tax to sponsor school sports events in order to stop fast food companies from doing it.
Let’s get Chefette-branded products out of our schools.
Let’s give children the very best start so they can live the long and healthy lives they deserve.
Let’s do better for our children.
Dr Alafia Samuels is head of the Port of Spain evaluation team and Director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre.