Obesity Levels in CARICOM Countries Are the Highest Compared to the Rest of the World, And Alarmingly High in Our Children
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 11 March 2021. This year the Caribbean and the World will commemorate World Obesity Day on 4 March under the theme “Every Body, Needs Everybody”. Obesity is no longer only a problem in developed countries but is now a critical issue for developing countries, including CARPHA Member States (CMS), especially since this disease is affecting a significant number of children.
The Caribbean has some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the Americas with adults ranging from 18.9% in Antigua and Barbuda to 31.6% in the Bahamas. Alarmingly, overweight and obesity prevalence levels in children aged 5-9 years in CARICOM countries are increasing, and highest in the Bahamas at 39.5% and lowest in Saint Lucia at 26.1%. The prevalence of obesity in Caribbean children is two to three times higher than the World. With the obesity epidemic in children and adolescents, the future seen through the risk factor lens for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) looks dismal, as these young persons will be the future working generation but living with higher rates of NCDs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of persons with obesity, and other NCDs. It is not yet clear why there is a link between COVID-19 and obesity, however an increased susceptibility to respiratory problems, inflammation, and immunological disturbances in people living with obesity may all be contributing factors. Obesity also has a number of NCD co-morbidities such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease which have also been shown to increase risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.
Obesity is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental factors and behavioural factors, such as physical inactivity and unhealthy diet. However, the obesogenic environment, which is usually driven by factors outside of the individual’s control, makes the healthy choice the difficult choice to take. Persons with obesity also face stigma and discrimination due to their weight that can lead to poor emotional well-being, and low self-esteem.
Realising that a whole of society approach is necessary to reduce the burden of obesity and diet related NCDs, CARPHA continues to support its member states and collaborate with regional and international organisations in an effort to minimize the impact of obesity in the Caribbean region. Some initiatives spearheaded by CARPHA to combat childhood obesity include the Six-Point Policy Package which sets out priority areas for action on mandatory food labelling, nutritional standards and guidelines for schools, and reduction in the marketing of unhealthy foods.
CARPHA, in collaboration with Ministries of Health and Education in Grenada and Saint Lucia, implemented an intervention in schools to promote healthy environments and diets to prevent obesity and diabetes. ‘Reversing the Rise in Childhood Obesity’ was funded by the World Diabetes Foundation. As part of the project, a recipe book Kids Can Cook Too was developed to support sustained healthy eating behaviours of children.
No single intervention will combat obesity. This is why “Every Body, Needs Everybody”.
CARPHA joins the rest of the world in commemorating “World Obesity Day” to raise awareness and encourage the “whole of society approach” where every body can work together for happier, healthier and longer lives for everybody.
Caribbean countries should recommit efforts to fighting childhood obesity by:
- Developing, implementing or enforcing policies aimed at facilitating the consumption of healthy diets and increasing physical activity, such as, clear and simple front of packaging labelling.
- Combatting social stigma associated with obesity
- Ensuring access to care for persons who want help to maintain a healthy weight
Individuals can do their part by becoming more physically active by moving more and reducing the consumption of salt, fats and sugar and increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables. CARPHA as part of its ongoing support to Member States, will continue to assist countries in developing and implementing tools to reduce obesity, especially childhood obesity, in collaboration with our development partners.
Our children are our future and have a right to health. Let us protect it. “Every Body, Needs Everybody”.
Media Release: CARPHA
FBI and Bahamas looking into woman’s death
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – The FBI is investigating a woman’s ‘suspicious’ death on a Carnival Cruise ship in February. The unnamed woman and her husband boarded the Carnival Sunshine on February 27th, for a trip to the Bahamas, but she was dead before they arrived in the port in The Bahamas.
The FBI said Carnival’s team had administered life saving measures when the woman was reported unresponsive, but they were unsuccessful. The body and the woman’s husband were released to the Bahamian authorities when the cruise arrived in the country.
In a statement shared with US media houses, Carnival Cruises claimed the death has been a natural one. The Nassau Guardian said a source told them the police findings had concurred with that assessment saying it was a “normal sudden death of a tourist who wasn’t feeling well.”
The FBI was waiting for the cruise and when it got back to South Carolina on March 4th, they immediately boarded and began to investigate the room based on ‘evidence of a crime.’ The FBI also searched the couple’s car.
No updates have been shared to contradict the currently established cause of death.
Why Sargassum Matters
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – “If you don’t like it, go to another beach!” Is what Aaron John, an Education Officer from The Bahamas National Trust jokingly tells our news team about sargassum blooms; his quip, motivated by the necessity of nature when pit against the notion that there is a real threat when the stinky seaweed makes its annual appearance.
John can admit, he says, that Sargassum isn’t very pretty but life isn’t all about aesthetics and in this instance that ugly patch serves a purpose.
“We love our sandy beaches, but in order to keep them we need Sargassum. When storms come, they wash away all the sand off the beach but sargassum acts as a mulch to protect the sand from water erosion. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good but we need it.”
He said it also provides a habitat for small crustaceans, crabs, and insects that are all necessary to our ecosystem and islanders have found use for the weed.
“Historically, (in The Bahamas) we have been using sargassum as fertilizer, especially in the family Islands as far back as I know,” he said. “Birds don’t go on the beach unless there is Sargassum and what do they do? they feed – it’s beautiful.”
He encouraged residents to just leave it be if they came across it.
Sargassum isn’t harmful to humans, except for people with respiratory issues who may find the rotten egg smell triggers asthma. Despite this, it’s not advisable to walk through the weeds which may hide sharp rocks and bottles or vulnerable animals.
Experts say Sargassum blooms began to increase in size around 2011 and have continued to get bigger and bigger since. This year‘s bloom is around 5000 miles long and 300 miles wide and visible from space.
“I know it’s not a general outlook, but I would like to change the perspective on sargassum,” John said, pointing out The Bahamas National Trust is actively working to decrease alarm over the less worrisome events like sargassum as it raises the profile on the environmentally devastating.
Lease agreement approved for diaspora office
#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos’ Bahamas Diaspora Office is moving closer and closer to opening day, following the Cabinet’s approval for the signing of a lease agreement.
The lease will be signed with FINCEN ltd in the Bahamas. Several weeks ago, Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration confirmed to our news team that the location had been found and was being finalized; now a lease is approved at the Cabinet level.
The interest in the TCI from TC Bahamians was evident in the diaspora meetings held in early February. The two meetings held in Nassau and Grand Bahama were completely full and over-subscribed by hundreds.
It’s interest which the Government hopes will translate to real life population growth, bolstering the local population before the native population ‘goes extinct’.
The Opposition PDM is on the record with what it feels is a far more viable solution to a dwindling native population; seek out the country’s own citizens and bring them back home.
Cabinet did not state when the office will open.
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