Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said obesity in children increased 400 per cent between 1999 and 2009.
Speaking at the opening of the Healthy Youth TT programme at the St James Youth Facility on Saturday, he said a survey of BMIs conducted by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute for the ministry indicated that obesity in children was 2.4 per cent in 1999 and 12.5 per cent in 2009.
In schoolchildren, ages five to 18, overweight and obesity increased from 11 per cent in 1999 to 23 per cent in 2009. And childhood obesity impacts on the development of non-communicable diseases later in life.
“That is why your hospitals are clogged up. That is why your accident and emergency departments are clogged up. Because an unhealthy, obese child will grow up to be and unhealthy, obese, diabetic, hypertensive stroke victim and go into your Accident and Emergencies.”
He said a study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) some years ago estimated that, directly and indirectly, NCDs cost this country $6-to-$8 billion annually. Therefore he asked that the population started simple by encouraging children to drink water, get moving, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Rocio J Medina-Bolivar, IDB country representative, said in this pandemic many are at home. However, for a healthy body and mind people need to keep fit as it would reduce stress and assist in having good mental health.
“In the absence of an active exercise routine and diet we can become lazy and may gain weight. When our health and fitness is not up to the mark, we are unable to do anything properly and stay behind.”
Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister of Youth Development and National Service, said the National Youth Policy 2020-2025 was recently approved by Cabinet and one of the pillars was youth health and well-being. He therefore welcomed the facility as it would assist in that objective.
The St James facility is the second of its kind. The first was unveiled at the launch of a gym at the Bagatelle Community Centre in Diego Martin on February 13. In phase one, six facilities would be opened including Los Bajos Youth Facility in Palo Seco, Cantaro Community Centre in La Pastora, Upper El Dorado Community Centre, and the Mayaro Sport Facility.
The aim of the programme was to provide physical activity equipment to selected community centres, youth, and sporting facilities to give young people access to basic equipment in their communities. It also aimed to develop and implement a community-based, youth-targeted health promotion wellness programme.