CARIBBEAN – Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic comes a very serious report which describes the Caribbean as being in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic.
The study, which was commissioned by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) found that at least 66% of our children (2 in every 3) are carrying unhealthy weights which puts them at risk of developing non-communicable diseases as they grow older.
This ranks the Caribbean as the highest in the world when it comes to childhood obesity.
Trinidad and Tobago’s obesity rating among school-children stood at an alarming 51.5% in 2018, an increase of 39% from 2001.
Other countries that featured prominently on the list are Bahamas with 39.5%, Antigua and Barbuda 31.6%, and St. Lucia with 26.1% Interestingly, Jamaica, has produced some of the most outstanding athletes of the caliber of Usain Bolt, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser- Pryce ranked the lowest at 17.7%.
Another point of interest to note is the fact that this study focused exclusively on children between the ages 5 and 9. It would make for an interesting study, to examine older children.
Minister Deyalsingh has also been at the forefront of encouraging parents to provide healthy snacks for their children.
But it must also be recognized that exercising, particularly outdoors for children will go a long way to preventing obesity.
Children of yesteryear ate as many sweets and in some cases even than children today. The difference between us and the children is the fact that we engaged in numerous outdoor activities.
We played soccer, netball, cricket basketball, and hide and seek, among other games, which burned the calories that we put in.
Today’s children will indulge in the very games, but on their computer, laptop, cell phone, or tablet. Most of their day is spent before a screen indoors and while they are before the screen, they indulge in unhealthy eating of snacks and drinking soft drinks.
So, in order to make a serious dent in childhood obesity, parents must take the lead. They must not only provide healthy meals for their children but take them out to the park and indulge in physical activities with them, let them learn to enjoy outdoors.
While electronic devices are good and useful, they must not be used at the expense of our children’s health. Fighting obesity begins with me.