Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, is the newest champion behind the Childhood Obesity Programme being hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB).
And, he is encouraging all residents to make good use of the island’s beaches for physical exercise, noting that they could engage in a myriad of activities while there.
Speaking during a special visit to the HSFB and Yute Gym on Saturday, the Minister said he was “privileged and honoured” to be a champion in the programme designed to promote healthier lifestyles among the island’s children.
He added that he saw a “natural partnership” as health and nutrition also formed a part of his Ministry.
“We want people to eat more fish. I am also pushing beach-related activity such as swimming, sailing and kite surfing. There is a whole range of activity for which we can align, so perhaps we can work together,” he said.
At the same time, Mr. Humphrey encouraged officials at the HSFB to look at strategies that focused on educating the public about the healthier options, and dangers of not eating correctly to bring about a change in behaviour.
He explained that rather than simply seeking to move vendors from around schools, they should be sensitised about the importance of offering healthier options to students. “We need to focus on aspects,” he said.
The Minister explained that a similar strategy was employed during the early stages of the ban on plastics when the Ministry sought to educate suppliers about the dangers to the environment if they continued to use plastics.
He added that this brought about behavioural change to the point where people were demanding the alternatives to plastics when making purchases.
Director of the Yute Gym, Professor Ann St. John, noted that the HSFB already held workshops for vendors, in an effort to educate them about healthier snack options for children.
She explained that the HSFB accepted referrals from doctors for obese and overweight children. “Since COVID, we need more space…, and more volunteers,” she said, noting that many of the children had gained weight during the lockdown.
In addition, she said, children were also impacted, as the physical education component at some schools was also disrupted as a result of the new system.
Project Manager, Francine Charles, noted that the development of policy was important for Government to signal what kind of country was desired, and to implement sustained initiatives.
During the meeting, Mrs. Charles noted that the Foundation intended to start working on a School Nutrition Policy, and already had the support of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
She encouraged the Minister to support the HSFB publicly and privately, stressing that they needed persons “talking on all corridors”.
The Yute Gym of the HSFB is the only gym on the island for cardiac rehabilitation, and the only one which offers a childhood obesity programme.