With one in three Barbadian children classified as overweight or obese, Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs Senator Lucille Moe has challenged the media to join the fight against a growing epidemic.
She also gave the Government’s commitment to overcome the lifestyle disease as she addressed an orientation for media managers on childhood obesity prevention, organised by the Heart & Stroke Foundation at the Hilton hotel.
Senator Moe underscored the important role the media play in disseminating information on health initiatives because they have the power to set agendas to influence what people were concerned about and to frame issues.
She pointed out that the Ministry of Health and Wellness was also currently preparing guidelines on front-of-package labelling about which the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) and the media could help to build awareness and sensitize children, especially, as to the significance of labelling on their choice of food.
She gave the assurance that the BGIS and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, which fall under her ministry’s purview, would continue to play their role in tackling childhood obesity.
Senator Moe declared: “We need total buy-in from all sectors – Government, civil society and private sector – if we are to realize the objective of reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity by five per cent by the end of this year.
“Therefore, not only the public sector media agencies but the private sector media houses must embrace this as their commitment too and I am confident that they do.”
Senator Moe, who briefly acted as education minister, cited the Ministry of Education’s move to make it compulsory for all school cafeterias to serve only healthy meals.
She said: “This decision was made after it was discovered that most secondary school menus comprised white potato fries, burgers and fried chicken, all of which are contributing factors to this worrisome problem.
“Previously, while there have been several draft policies on school menus, the policies were not enforced.
“However, at a seminar last week, Minister Santia Bradshaw spoke about the initiative being pursued involving a food and nutrition policy for both public and private nursery, primary and secondary schools in Barbados.”
Childhood obesity, the Minister for Broadcasting indicated, was a global public health concern from which Barbados was not exempt.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2016, an estimated 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese, she noted. The WHO had projected that by 2025, the global cost of obesity and its associated illnesses might rise to US$1.2 trillion per year.
Senator Moe added that a report on Barbados’ National Plan of Action for Childhood Obesity Prevention and Control for the period 2015 to 2018 noted that the country had made tremendous achievements in ensuring the health of the child; however, the epidemic of childhood obesity threatens to derail all previous gains.