Fri | Apr 19, 2024

Heart Foundation marks World Obesity Day

Published:Saturday | March 2, 2024 | 12:08 AM
Debra Chen (right), executive director, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, talks about having a healthy heart with Olympian Yohan Blake (left) and Dr Garth Rattray, general family practitioner, during the launch of Heart Month at the Terra Nova hotel in King
Debra Chen (right), executive director, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, talks about having a healthy heart with Olympian Yohan Blake (left) and Dr Garth Rattray, general family practitioner, during the launch of Heart Month at the Terra Nova hotel in Kingston on Thursday.

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica is celebrating World Obesity Day this March 4, around the theme ‘Let’s talk about obesity ... and the need for healthy school food environments’.

This year, the focus will be on the need for action and the role everyone can play in reducing obesity by increasing the awareness of obesity’s impacts on health and finances, globally and Jamaica in particular. With the rise in obesity and its associate health challenges, the foundation notes that there is urgent need for the development of health policies and interventions to manage and reduce this health crisis. This, it says, is even more a reality with our youth.

The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III (2016-2017) reports that one out of two Jamaicans age 15 and older are overweight/obese (54 per cent per cent). Data from the 2017 Global School-based Student Health Survey shows that 23.3 per cent of Jamaican students ages 13-17 years are overweight and/or obese. This survey also highlights that childhood obesity in Jamaica has increased by 68.3 per cent in seven years, with three out of 10 of our children ages 13-17 being overweight/obese, and rates that are almost doubling for boys. Sadly, these numbers continue to trend upwards.

“When we consider that our children spend the majority of their waking hours at school, the place which they access the majority of the food that they eat, it is now incumbent on the government to lead the charge to ensure that what is offered at these educational institutions meet the nutritional needs of our children, to enable their proper growth and development.

Considering the above, it is important for our government to implement the much-talked-about school nutrition policy, to ensure school administrators, canteen operators, concessionaires, parents and vendors play their part in ensuring that our children are being provided with the proper nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults,” the foundation notes in a release.

“As we focus on this day, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica calls on all governments, health service providers, insurers and philanthropic organisations to prioritise investment in tackling obesity. This means investment in obesity treatment services, early intervention and prevention as part of the plan to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 3.4, “ensuring healthy lives and promoting well0being for all at all ages”.

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica takes this opportunity, on World Obesity Day, to hold government to account on their promise to have the School Nutrition Policy completed and presented for parliamentary approval before April of this year.

The time to act is now, to get unhealthy foods and beverages out of our schools,” it continued.