Reema Carmona, wife of President Anthony Carmona, has commended Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Sir George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of PAHO/WHO, for their support in the removal of high sugar content from food sold in schools.
She praised both men at an international conference at the United Nations in New York.
She also thanked Alleyne for his ‘remarkable stewardship’ both as UWI Chancellor over the past 14 years and as a strong supporter of health associations in the Caribbean.
Carmona told a gathering of government ministers and health officials that unlike a hurricane, childhood obesity is totally avoidable.
“As Small Island Developing States, we are already vulnerable to the effects of climate change and Mother Nature. In some part, Maria was unpreventable. However, to add non-communicable diseases and childhood obesity, which are, for the most part, preventable, to the challenges that we already face, is irresponsible. In the epidemiology of non-communicable diseases, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are modifiable behavioural risk factors and high blood pressure and obesity modifiable biological risk factors that, quite frankly, require urgent modification to treat with this surge of non-communicable diseases. These risk factors are highlighted in the Executive Summary of Trinidad and Tobago’s 2017-2021 Executive Summary of the ‘National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of non-communicable diseases”
She added that the issue of child obesity is inflamed by the “couch potato” attitude, which allows children to spend long hours watching TV and playing video games.
She highlighted several strides in the fight against obesity, noting that the Ministry of Health announced a ban on drinks with heavy sugar content in schools, and one of the nations’ leading soda manufacturers announced that it intended to lower its sugar content by 40 percent.
Carmona pleaded with the gathering to proactively address childhood obesity by warning the public of the negative effects of salt and sugar in one’s diet. She also made a call to strive for food labelling legislation, and tax breaks on healthy food imports as well as higher taxes on unhealthier options.
“At some point, in fighting to save people from themselves, it has become necessary to legislate what we eat. We simply cannot depend on the goodwill of individuals and companies alone to get this health revolution off the ground.”