Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (FP)??

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, lauded the staff and students of the St. James Secondary School for organising an inaugural Health Extravaganza, held at the Trents, St. James institution, this morning.

The event, part of the school’s healthy lifestyle campaign, showcased a variety of products and information from a number of businesses and organisations which set up booths in the school’s auditorium.

The Senator encouraged students to take the message of healthy diets and physical activity to heart by making changes now that could impact them positively in the future. She also urged them to get their parents and guardians involved so that they, too, could make healthy lifestyle choices.

Senator Sandiford-Garner said it was estimated that up to one-quarter of all school children were either overweight or obese with girls almost twice as likely to be overweight than boys.?? This worrisome trend, she added, continued into adulthood with 65 per cent of adults being overweight or obese.

To this end, she underscored the importance of physical education as an integral part of the school curriculum and urged students to "Get Active and Get Healthy" by "getting off the couch…computer or the television set" and taking part in sports.

She said the Ministry of Health would continue to support the efforts of the school through the National Non-Communicable Disease Commission and the Task Force on Physical Activity and Exercise. And, she acknowledged "the good work of the Ministry of Education, especially the last three years which has been working with the Ministry of Health in providing a healthy environment for learning".

"We realise that to make a significant impact on the rising levels of chronic disease, we will have to start with initiatives in schools… The Ministry of Health has developed Guidelines for Healthy and Nutritious Foods in Schools which serves as a roadmap to healthy living and include a range of healthy meals and snacks," the Parliamentary Secretary noted.

She added: "A survey conducted in 2008 showed that 95 per cent of respondents did not consume the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. This is a worrisome situation, eating fruits and vegetables can prevent diabetes, hypertension and even some cancers. I urge the canteen operators of schools across Barbados to incorporate fruits and vegetables in all their menus."

The Senator also warned students about the long-term effects of tobacco smoke. She explained that a survey conducted by the National Council on Substance Abuse and the Pan American Health Organization indicated that 13 per cent of boys and eight per cent of girls either currently use or have experimented with tobacco.

She further explained that the habit of tobacco smoking was, in most instances, initiated by the age of 18. And, those who had not engaged in smoking tobacco and cigarettes by age 21, were less likely to start. The Senator pointed out that chronic diseases which include diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and certain cancers had risk factors that were common to all; poor diet, lack of physical activity and early exposure to tobacco and alcohol.


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