Barbados has successfully included mandates aimed at preventing childhood obesity into the Inter-American Education Agenda, following a meeting of Ministers of Education at the Organization of American States (OAS) earlier this month.
The move comes as statistics show that over 40 per cent of the school-aged population in Barbados is obese or overweight, while the Americas as a whole has almost twice the global average of obesity.
Obesity in childhood is a predictor of obesity in adulthood, and it increases the risks of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
At current rates, such diseases account for 40 per cent of premature deaths in the Caribbean, and 80 per cent of total deaths in the region.
An initiative of Barbados’ Permanent Mission to the OAS and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the NCD-related mandates commit PAHO, the Inter-American Task Force on NCDs and the Ministries of Health and Education of 34 OAS Member States to engage in dialogue to implement health promotion interventions in schools across the Americas.
The mandates will also build capacity among teachers by including NCD and health promotion topics into their training courses.
In a statement delivered ahead of the adoption of the action plan to implement the Inter-American Education Agenda, Barbados’ Ambassador to the OAS, Noel Lynch, said: “We should be worried that our governments’ investments in education could be jeopardized by the quick advance of childhood obesity, overweight and NCDs.”
He further noted that the mandates advanced by Barbados were “a moral response” to a crisis that disproportionately impacted the children of the Americas.
Barbados’ focus on non-communicable diseases at the OAS stems from its sponsorship of a political resolution to promote multi-sectoral responses to NCDs.
That resolution, which was adopted at the 48th General Assembly of the OAS in June 2018, mandates the inclusion of NCD perspectives into the cooperation actions of the multilateral body.