Government remains committed to addressing and overcoming the increasing childhood obesity prevalence in the island.
Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs, Senator Lucille Moe, expressed this commitment today as she addressed the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados; Childhood Obesity Prevention Media Managers Orientation, at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
Senator Moe reminded her audience that the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training was in the process of making it compulsory for all school cafeterias to serve only healthy meals.
“This decision was made after it was discovered that most secondary school menus comprised white potato fries, burgers and fried chicken, all of which are contributing factors to this worrisome problem.
“Previously, while there have been several draft policies on school menus, the policies were not enforced. However, at a seminar last week Minister Santia Bradshaw spoke about the initiative being pursued involving a food and nutrition policy for both public and private nursery, primary and secondary schools in Barbados,” she stated.
Senator Moe underscored the important role the media play in disseminating information on health initiatives. The media, she said, had the power to set agendas to influence what people were concerned about and to frame issues.
She pointed out that the Ministry of Health and Wellness was also currently preparing guidelines on front-of-package labelling about which the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) and the media could help to build awareness and sensitize children, especially, as to the significance of labelling to their choice of food.
She gave the assurance that the BGIS and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, which fall under her Ministry’s purview, would continue to play their role in wrestling childhood obesity to the ground.
“We need total buy-in from all sectors – Government, civil society and private sector – if we are to realize the objective of reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity by five per cent by the end of this year. Therefore, not only the public sector media agencies but the private sector media houses must embrace this as their commitment too and I am confident that they do,” she said.
Childhood obesity, Minister Moe indicated, was a global public health concern from which Barbados was not exempt. She said the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2016, an estimated 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese.
She added that the WHO had projected that by 2025, the global cost of obesity and its associated illnesses might rise to US$1.2 trillion per year.
Senator Moe added that a report on Barbados’ National Plan of Action for Childhood Obesity Prevention and Control for the period 2015 to 2018 noted that the country had made tremendous achievements in ensuring the health of the child; however, the epidemic of childhood obesity threatens to derail all previous gains.