Guyana joins Caribbean battle against obesity, non-communicable diseases

From left are Dr. William Adu-Krow, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence and Sir Trevor Hassell (Ministry of Public Health photo)

Guyana has joined the ‘Childhood Obesity Prevention call to Action’ to help fight obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, in the Caribbean Region.

Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence and Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, on Tuesday, signed the document in the presence of PAHO/WHO Guyana Representative Dr. William Adu-Krow and Sir Trevor Hassell, President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), a press release from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) stated.

Sir Trevor, who is the Special Envoy on NCDs for the Barbados Government and Chairman of the Barbados National NCD Commission, said that the Childhood Obesity Prevention call to Action initiative “is a call for the entire country to pay attention to their health,” while stressing that the NCD action is not only a health issue “but an economic issue as well”.

According to the MoPH statement, 57 percent of Guyana’s adults are afflicted by some form of NCDs and of these afflicted, 70 percent of those between 35 and 60 years of age, are killed by the disease. Dr Alafia Samuels, who is Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, University of the West Indies, and head of a wide-ranging evaluation of the Port of Spain Declaration , has observed that in the region, “Our soda consumption is the highest in the world. In some countries, more than 30 percent of young people are overweight or obese. Our diabetes rates are double global rates, and in some populations up to 50 percent of us are living with high blood pressure. It is clear that we need to accelerate our response.”

According to the HCC website, in order to combat rampant NCDs, a comprehensive approach is needed that requires all sectors, including health, finance, foreign affairs, education, agriculture, planning and others, to work together to reduce the risks associated with the malady as well as promote interventions “to prevent and control them.”

The Childhood Obesity Prevention five-year plan (2017-2021) was recently released, according to the Public Health statement. It was developed to guide the response of Caribbean Civil Society to global, regional, and national recognition of the increasingly heavy burden NCDs, obese and overweight persons put on economies.

According to the MoPH media release, earlier this year, the HCC launched its initiative to Kingston, Jamaica under the Hashtag #toomuchjunk during the Caribbean NCD Forum. The campaign, which was funded by the Bloomberg Foundation under its Global Health Awareness Incubator, wants the public to support the petition calling for children to avoid sugary and junk foods and aerated drinks.

The HCC initiative is funded by the regional Caribbean Development Bank and is designed to strengthen the ability of civil society organisations (CSOs); support capacity building in addressing childhood obesity prevention in four countries, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize and Jamaica; and to contribute to chronic NCD prevention and control, with specific focus on childhood obesity programmes.

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