Rise of obesity, alcohol and tobacco use among Caribbean youth worrying

-Caricom Secretary General

Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque is sounding an alarm over the health of the region’s young people, with current data pointing to increasing trends of obesity due to unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles, and consumption of tobacco and alcohol and at earlier ages.

On the occasion of Caribbean Wellness Day 2013, which is being observed today, LaRocque is warning that if these trends are not halted and reversed, the health of tomorrow’s adults, the base of our region’s productive capacity, will be compromised.

His warnings came yesterday in a statement released by Caricom Secretariat ahead of today’s observance. The statement noted that the second Saturday of September was designated as Caribbean Wellness Day in the 2007 Port-of-Spain declaration ‘Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of NCDs,’ signed by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

LaRocque said that the declaration was the outcome of the concerns of Caricom leaders about the physical, economic and social burdens caused by lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, obesity and cancer. The declaration also outlined a selection of necessary measures to address the four main modifiable causative risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – physical inactivity, inadequate diets, tobacco use, and harmful use of alcohol.

He said that this year’s focus is on addressing the prevention and control of NCDs among the regions’ youth, under the theme ‘Ensuring healthy lifestyles among our youth for a brighter future.’

LaRocque called on the region’s youth to partner with Caricom in the fight against NCDs by fostering greater health responsibility and awareness among peers.  He urged them to become involved as leaders and change agents in the design and implementation of programmes and interventions that will promote healthy eating, increased physical activity, the rejection of tobacco products, and the responsible consumption of alcohol.

He assured that the Caricom Secretariat will work steadfastly with member states, associate members and regional and international partners, to invest in the health of the people of the region, and build on the premise of the 2001 Nassau Declaration ‘The health of the region is the wealth of region.’

He invited ideas from the region’s youth on interventions and initiatives that foster collaborative approaches, involving the whole of society to address the multifaceted issues of NCD prevention and control and which resonate throughout communities, villages, towns, cities, countries, in the Caricom region and further afield.

He said that today, and for the week, month and year ahead, Caricom member states will be united in efforts to address the specific issues for the prevention and control of NCDs among the region’s youth. Member States will be engaged in youth-led celebratory activities such as health fairs, fitness walks, sports and games, dance marathons, healthy food promotions, and health education sessions.

According to the Secretary-General, “On the 6th Anniversary of the Port-of-Spain Declaration, let us all renew our pledge to ‘Unite to Stop the Epidemic of NCDs’ and cognizant of the prominent role played by Caricom in the International arena to put NCDs on the development agenda, support the efforts of our youth and pay credence to the slogan ‘we love our bodies.’”

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