Bridgetown, Barbados, 9th February 2017. Childhood obesity continues to be a serious public health concern in the Region. Statistics show that more than 30% of our Caribbean adolescents are overweight or obese, and risk developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases later in life. The economic burden of diabetes and hypertension alone is estimated at between 1.4% and 8% of GDP in the Caribbean, thus creating a significant drain on Caribbean economies, and threatening development prospects.
Recognising the critical need for leadership and cross-sectoral action to address this health issue, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and with funding from Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) hosted a meeting to develop a roadmap to prevent childhood obesity through improved food and nutrition security.
The opening ceremony took place earlier this week at the Barbados Yacht Club, and was marked by the presence of the Barbados Minister of Health, the Honourable John D. E. Boyc,e and other high level officials from regional institutions.
“The meeting will look at how we can together accelerate action on the ground, in countries, in the food environment and nutrition area, especially for the most vulnerable – our children. The meeting is historic as it gathers at least half of CARICOM Institutions to focus attention on a key development challenge through implementing a 6-point policy package for healthier less obesogenic food environments,” said, Dr. C. James Hospedales, CARPHA Executive Director, in his welcoming remarks
He added that fiscal and trade measures, mandatory nutritional labelling to empower consumers and elimination of trans fats from food supplies were among the areas that must be addressed, buttressed by region-wide and sustained information and communication.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is the single regional public health agency for the Caribbean. It was legally established in July 2011 by an Inter-governmental Agreement signed by Caribbean Member States and began operation in January 2013. The Agency rationalises public health arrangements in the Region by combining the functions of five Caribbean Regional Health Institutions (RHIs) into a single agency. They are: The Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI) The Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) The Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) The Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC) The Caribbean Regional Drug Testing Laboratory (CRDTL) CARPHA brings these RHIs together as one strong force under a public health umbrella where issues requiring a regional response can be addressed.