#TheCaribbean, October 6, 2021 – “The people of the Caribbean have a right to know for themselves and their families what is in their foods. Further, research in the Caribbean has shown that Front of Package Warning Labels such as octagonal front-of-package warning labels (FOPWL) are the best performing system for allowing consumers to correctly, quickly, and easily identify products that contain excessive amounts of the critical nutrients sugar, sodium, total fat, saturated fat and trans fat. It is also important for consumers to have the ability to compare foods in order to make the healthiest choices for foods which contain the most nutritional value,” stated Dr. Joy St. John. The Executive Director of CARPHA was delivering opening remarks at the start of a webinar hosted by the Caribbean Public Health Agency.
On Wednesday 27 September, a panel of experts came together to discuss “Critical actions for food labelling…to save life and livelihoods. The webinar, part of the CARPHA COVID-19 Health Rounds, sought to raise awareness of the importance of food labels, including FOPWL and highlight activities to engage Governments and consumers.
Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, CARPHA has embarked on a series of webinars aimed at imparting knowledge about the virus. The issue of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is being given attention and priority, as it has been widely documented that people with underlying conditions, especially NCDs, are most at risk for death and severe illness from COVID-19.
In his welcome remarks, Mr. Dean Chambliss, Sub-Regional Program Director, Caribbean Program Coordination PAHO stated “To date, the Caribbean population still does not have access to clear information on whether a product is excessive in sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats or total fats. In the absence of clear, easily understood warning labels on the front of packages, people will continue to blindly buy products without knowing whether they contain an excess of these nutrients. This is even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it is crucial to help consumers at higher risk avoid products excessive in unhealthy nutrients. Without effective measures to prevent unhealthy diets, the rise of NCDs will remain unstoppable, with irreparable consequences on health, as well as economic development and productivity.”
In the session, Mr. Rashad Brathwaite, Human Rights Attorney, addressed the transformative space for food laws and policy, as it may now be possible to expect Governments to approach the health of consumers from a holistic standpoint. Therefore, the transformative space looks at the obligations of Governments to act, where the right to health is concerned, and this may include FOPWL. He stated, “The strength of the evidence is important when considering food policy from the space of domestic human rights and the rule of law.” It should be noted that there are various types of FOPWL and the strength of the scientific evidence regarding the best FOPWL model should also be considered by Governments where policy implications are concerned.
Mrs. Laura Roberts-Hall, President, Trinidad and Tobago Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians, explained the difference between food labels and nutrition facts labels. She also highlighted the benefits of supermarket tours to consumers, especially the component of a tour that explains food label components to allow persons to correctly read nutrition facts labels. Persons during supermarket tours typically find food labels to be confusing so Mrs. Roberts-Hall expressed the need for FOPWL with the octagonal warning signs, as these are simple and the easiest for consumers to understand.
Senior Standards Officer at the Jamaica Bureau of Standards, Ms Phillipa O’Connor presented insights into the comprehensive approach by Jamaica for Standards development, as there is a National Mirror Committee. The CARICOM Regional Standard for Specification for labelling of pre-packaged foods (CARICOM CRS5) is mandatory in Jamaica. For the revision of the CARICOM CRS5, Jamaica involved a wide cross section of stakeholders, including the food industry. However, based on the votes received, Jamaica did not approve the revisions as there was a request for more than one FOPWL model to be included, in addition to the octagonal model.
Ms. Elizabeth Orlan, Associate Director, Research for the Food Policy Program Global Health Advocacy Incubator highlighted the work of her agency, and its support to advocacy campaigns calling for healthy food policies at the national level, given the confusion consumers may encounter, as foods high in critical nutrients may still be labelled as healthy.
The session was quite insightful and gathered over 60 engaged attendees throughout the online event. The moderator was Dr. Keisha T Roberts, Senior Technical Officer, Food Security and Nutrition, at CARPHA.
CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases
October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.
The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).
During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.
The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit. The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.
The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.
Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.
More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean
World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 14 October, 2021. In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes). According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.
Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.
Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind. Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience blindness.
CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.
Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.
Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.
Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment. CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need. Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.
World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October. The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.
The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’
Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:
- Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
- Spend time outside. Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)
- Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
- If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year
Your sight cannot be taken for granted. It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!
RBDF Congratulates Retired Commander Defence Force on National Honour Award
During a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street, Commodore Smith was presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith. Also in attendance were his daughter, Mrs. Italia Seymour, and the Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King.
Commodore Smith was one of sixteen other deserving individuals recognized on National Heroes Day for the vast contributions they made to the development of the country. The first Bahamian Officer to be appointed as Commander Defence Force, he is the longest-serving Commodore to serve this office from 1983 to 1997.
Throughout his military career, he received numerous awards and accolades, and his career in public life spanned over forty years, and on September 19, 2014, an RBDF Legend Class Vessel bearing his name was commissioned. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is truly grateful for the devoted services of Commodore Smith to the organization and his country.
Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King extends congratulations on his behalf of the members of his Executive Command, Officers, Senior Enlisted, and Junior Enlisted members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, to Commodore Retired Leon Smith, on his great accomplishment.
Header: Commodore Retired Leon Smith being presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.
Insert: Commodore Retired Leon Smith along with recipients of the 2021 National Honours Awards on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.
(RBDF Photos by Able Seaman Paul Rolle II)
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