Dr. Brathwaite: Critical Link Between Health And Agriculture

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Chairman of the National Agricultural Commission, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite (FP)

A prominent agriculturalist is of the view that the development of the local food and agricultural sector could be this country’s saviour in the fight against Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs).

Chairman of the National Agricultural Commission, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, stated that recent research undertaken by the Chronic Disease Research Centre showed that of the 190 000 Barbadians aged 20 years and older, 90 000 are overweight, 38 000 suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure and one person suffered a stroke every day.

According to him, CNCDs were now the primary worldwide health concern, with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and hypertension the major causes of death in many Caribbean countries.

He suggested that poor quality food and nutritional choices were risk factors responsible for these diseases.

Dr. Brathwaite observed that as the world became a global village, Barbados, as many other small nations, assumed the eating habits and culinary culture of the developed countries.

According to him, if these poor eating and nutritional habits were not addressed or reversed, the likely outcome would be an increased incidence of acute and long-term debilitating diseases which would lead to higher health care costs, losses in productivity and premature deaths.

Speaking during a recent presentation, he, however, offered a viable solution to such dietary issues – investing in wellness programmes which promote the use of good food and nutrition.

"A national policy of food and nutrition that emphasises the need to consume local food is what will drive the agricultural sector of Barbados. It is important that we see the sector as a vital part of the prevention and control of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases which are now the major causes of death in the region.

"I, therefore, call for a change in the diet of Barbadians from the fast food culture to one grounded in the use of local organically produced food, especially fruits and vegetables, roots and tubers," he said.

Dr. Brathwaite maintained that such a focus would help reduce this country’s high food import bill by some $40 million and reduce the incidence of CNCDs in Barbados.

According to the Central Bank of Barbados, the current food import bill stood at some $409 million in 2011, including $24 million for fresh and frozen vegetables, $23 million for fruits and $40.2 million for sugar. ??

The Chairman of the National Agricultural Commission also suggested that the development of a programme which focuses on the benefits of using fresh local produce would not only save this country valuable foreign exchange but reduce the cost of medical care in the future.

andre.skeete@barbados.gov.bb

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