|Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John (FP)|
Agriculture and health stakeholders from across the English and French-speaking Caribbean are currently meeting in Barbados at the Amaryllis Beach Hotel, in preparation for the International Conference on Nutrition, 21 Years Later (ICN+21).??
Over the next two days the delegates will discuss the immediate food and nutrition needs of their citizens and the scaling up of effective and proven actions for improving the link between food, agriculture and nutrition, ahead of the international conference which would be held in Rome, Italy, next year from November 13 to15.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, who was one of the panellists at the opening ceremony held today, noted that many Caribbean countries were experiencing a shift in nutrition patterns.??
"This has resulted in increasing rates of obesity, which in turn have contributed to an increase in nutrition-related Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)… Recent events have underscored the importance of safe, secure and nutritious food supplies at reasonable prices for socio-political stability, human development and economic competitiveness. The spectre of climate change and a greater frequency of natural and socio-economic shocks contribute to the growing interest in and recognition of the value of a joint multi-sectoral approach to food and nutrition security," she underlined.
The CMO noted that in the Ministry of Health, healthy living was one of the major foci and, as such, health promotion was embraced as an approach to attaining and maintaining health and wellness. Dr. St. John added:?? "Of grave concern is the high rate of overweight and obese persons especially children and adolescents. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, placing them at a higher risk of developing NCDs.?? These chronic diseases are consistently the major causes of morbidity and mortality in our country."
Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Merle Lewis, noted that it was rare for key stakeholders in health, agriculture and nutrition to work together, even though there were shared goals and interests which, if synergistically were exploited, could be beneficial to society.
"Agricultural policies and practices including the quantities and quality of crops and livestock that farmers produce, the portfolio of crops that they grow, the production methods that they use, and, of course, the cost of these products are very important.?? Thus, agricultural policies have a clear impact on human health and nutrition and, in turn, health and nutrition policies can affect agriculture by influencing whether farmers and their families are healthy, well-nourished and strong enough to undertake the laborious work that is required for efficient agricultural production," Dr. Lewis explained.
She pointed out that although there were areas where people were not consuming enough food, as nearly 1/6 of the world population still went hungry, in other areas, people were consuming too much "of the wrong foods as diets are centered on cheap, calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods – a situation that has resulted in deepening of the epidemic of obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases…"
The WHO estimated that in 2008, 1.5 billion adults aged 20 years and older were overweight.?? Additionally, obesity affected 300 million people globally.?? It also reported that since 1980 obesity rates had risen three-fold or more in areas of North America, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.??
Meanwhile, it was noted that the "troubling trend of overweight and obesity" and the mean body mass index in the region had risen appreciably in both men and women in many Caribbean countries, since 1980.