Govt declares war on obesity among pupils

Government is embarking on an aggressive educational programme to fight obesity in the island’s schools.

According to the 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) Global School-based Student Health Survey, 46 per cent of Barbadian children were either overweight or obese with the number of girls and boys virtually even.

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO ) representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Godfrey Xuereb also said Barbadians now consumed 3,000 calories per day, well above what has been recommended by WHO for healthy living, and four times more sugar that the amount recommended for the Caribbean.

Dr Godfrey Xuereb
Dr Godfrey Xuereb

And as part of its ammunition in the battle against obesity among children, the National Nutrition Centre of the Ministry of Health has produced a series of guidelines on identifying and preparing health foods and snacks for children, including a booklet entitled, Nutritious and Healthy Foods, Nutritional and Practical Guidelines for Barbados and a calendar.

“This calendar provides succinct information and advice on the provision of nutritious and healthy foods for our children. We have also designed a handbook for secondary schools and canteen operators with practical suggestions for the execution of the Centre’s objectives. We are hoping to have the handbook ready for dissemination as soon as possible,” Dr Alleyne told reporters in the conference room of the Ministry of Health in the Frank Walcott Building on Culloden Road, St Michael.

The nutritionist also spoke of the development of policies to guide canteen operators.

“These policies should include specific criteria to be met by the schools’ canteen operators in order to provide only nutritious and healthy lunches and snacks to our school children. School canteens should be policed to ensure that compliance is being observed. The sale of unhealthy food on school premises for fund raising and other purposes should be discontinued. The success of the intentions of the document, Nutrition and Healthy Foods in Schools may depend on these policies.”

The Centre has also established a website with similar information for use by households.

Dr Alleyne said the booklet would serve as a template for nutritional standards in schools, in keeping with Government’s mandate to combat chronic non-communicable diseases.

In a brief address, Minister of Health John Boyce noted that over the last three years the Centre has been seeking to impress on Barbadians the need to use smaller portions of food.

He welcomed the introduction of the booklet, the 2016 calendar and the website in the drive to address the high incidence of non-communicable diseases.

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