Obesity: A Regional Concern Says PAHO Director

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Updated: February 14, 2017

Recently, the health authorities of Barbados had alerted their citizens of the risks brought about during to obesity.  This health factor, however, is not unique to Barbados as the Director for the Pan American Health Organization spoke of it being a concern that requires a holistic approach in the region.

DR CARISSA ETIENNE

“Certainly in our region we have increasing rates of childhood obesity but also over all obesity. Obesity is caused primarily from eating unhealthily and from physical inactivity. We know very importantly that breast feeding is one of the ways of reducing obesity. So the first 1,000 days of life is very important. We advocate for at least 6 months and to have healthy weaning foods after that. We advocate for increase activities in schools so put back physical activities and physical education on the curriculum and ensure that it happens for all school children be they in primary school or whatever level in the schools they are they need this, we advocate for healthy eating. It’s not merely the personal responsibility or the behavior change its also creating the enabling environment so we advocate that governments need to increase taxes on sugary beverages that we ask people to eat as close to nature as possible so instead of juicing and adding sugar, eat your fruit. We speak to high fats and high salts that all of those need to be reduced that people need to exercise regularly but we need to ensure that the exercise areas are safe so people can walk, we need to ensure that we have pathways so people can walk without falling and some countries have blocked roads and so on weekends people can exercise. So it’s a holistic approach and in fact in Belize you produce adequate fruits and vegetables for all of your peoples and so we need to educate and advocate for them to begin to eat what they grow and to grow more of what they eat as well. So you shouldn’t have a problem of obesity but you do. One of the countries with the highest rate of childhood obesity is in our region and we need to be able to combat that together but it is not just one country or one sector it’s all of us working together.”

In recent years, countries like the United States placed limits on sugar, fat and sodium in all foods and beverages sold on school compounds.  While Brazil has mandated that 30 per cent of the input in school meals must come from local agriculture and Panama has banned fried foods and sodas from school premises.