The Ministry of Health and Wellness continues to be concerned about the “subtle and not so subtle” marketing of unhealthy food to children.
Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Arthur Phillips, said today that the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in children was a consequence of the growing number of overweight and obese children in Barbados.
He was speaking at the virtual launch of a mass media campaign on Childhood Obesity Prevention, hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados.
The public health official noted the shift away from the consumption of locally prepared foods within the home to those prepared outside of the home, which were frequently high in salt, refined sugars, cholesterol, trans-fats and saturated fats.
And he also pointed to the World Health Organization’s Global School Health Survey, which was conducted in 26 secondary schools in the island. It indicated that children were not achieving the recommended level of physical activity and exercise.
“Despite the achievements garnered by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in ensuring that the health of the child is protected, the strengthening, coordination and management of obesity prevention continue to be challenging,” he shared.
Dr. Phillips revealed that the Ministry was working closely with the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training in respect of the implementation of policies and programmes within the National Plan for Childhood Obesity Prevention, including the formulation and implementation of a national school nutrition policy.
Health authorities were also focusing, he said, on engaging manufacturers and distributors of food products regarding the reformulation of products to reduce the levels of salt, fat and sugar in locally produced foods. These meetings will also address the need for affordable healthy options, he added.
“We will work with partners, including those in agriculture and commerce, in both the public and private sectors to reach these goals,” Dr. Phillips told his audience.
On the issue of front-of-package labelling, he stated that while the Ministry acknowledged that the standards process led by the Barbados National Standards Institution must take into account the concerns and preferences of the business sector, it would continue to push for effective nutrition labelling to allow consumers to make informed dietary choices.
Dr. Phillips applauded the Heart and Stroke Foundation and their partners for their commitment to the non-communicable disease agenda, adding that the Ministry would continue working with all stakeholders to address the issues related to childhood obesity.