??Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, chatting with Chairman of the National Commission for Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and Special Envoy for CNCDs, Professor Trevor Hassell, at the workshop. (A. Miller/BGIS)

With child obesity levels rising and physical activity levels declining it is important that school canteens provide a range of nutritious foods to give our children a better chance at healthy lives.

This point was underscored today by Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, as she addressed the start of training for school canteen operators, Home Economics teachers, and other stakeholders who provide meals to children.

The half-day session was held at the Dining Club in Newton, Christ Church.

Dr. St. John said: "I believe that if there is no focus in this area the result will ultimately be continuing generations of young people facing a lifetime burden of obesity, multiple chronic diseases and the inevitable loss of an optimal quality of life. This is based on the fact that many children rely on their school canteen for their snacks and lunches."

The senior health official added: "There is no doubt that poor nutrition is harmful to the physical and emotional well-being of individuals, and many chronic diseases can result from a poor diet. Moreover, a diet poor in nutrition also increases the risk of conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, osteoporosis and cancer."

The participants were urged to work with the Ministry of Health in the promotion of the consumption of more fruit and vegetables, and the increased consumption of ground provision such as cassava and sweet potatoes, which are considered highly beneficial to health.

It was stressed too that children who ate poorly on a daily basis or who were not gaining the maximum benefit from their nutritional regime, would experience several health challenges at younger ages.

Dr. St. John also referred to The Adolescent Health and Fitness Study, conducted by the Chronic Disease Research Centre in 1999/2000, that surveyed 462 students ages, 10 to 18. She said it reported that chocolates, candy, cake, sweet bread and other sweet pastries were consumed by over 60 per cent of adolescent school students at least once per week, while 65.3 per cent had one or two soft drinks daily.

She went on to explain that "patterns of fruit and vegetable intake revealed that only 34 per cent used fruit every day and 31 per cent used vegetables daily. The study also found that, generally, boys were more active than girls, and reported that sedentary activities like television viewing, computer and video games competed with physical activity as leisure time activities for adolescents.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Commission for Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and Special Envoy for CNCDs, Professor Trevor Hassell, urged participants to determine how they could contribute to healthier drinking and eating patterns among Barbadians.

He said: "I make this plea because of my concern that Barbadians, despite the fact of being aware of the problems of unhealthy eating and unhealthy lifestyles leading to an epidemic of chronic diseases, are not taking the necessary steps and actions to do something about these unhealthy habits of high salt and sugar intake, large portion sizes, ingestion of harmful fats and inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables."


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