Caribbean Fever - Your ONLY destination to all things Caribbean and more
Jamaica’s obesity problem just keeps getting bigger.
Obesity rates among adults have climbed from 45 per cent in 2002, to 54 per cent in 2008, and up to the end of last year, the rate stood at 60 per cent.
It’s a major worry for Professor of Public Health and Nutrition Fitzroy Henry who told the Jamaica Observer that obesity is at the root of a growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which is costing the Government more than $170 million per year to treat.
“The main causes of death in Jamaica include heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, stroke, which are all related to obesity,” he warned, adding that two out of every three deaths locally result from NCDs.
Henry is now leading a charge through the newly established National Food Industry Task Force to turn the problem around.
He was speaking at yesterday’s launch of the taskforce, which is mandated to get Jamaicans to stop eating themselves to the grave.
Henry, a University of Technology Professor, says the task force will be seeking to implement programmes to curtail the impact of obesity and chronic disease.
Topping his concerns is the high level of sugar and fat consumed among Jamaicans.
“The daily target for sugar per day in children is about 25 grammes or five teaspoons. For adults, it’s about 50 grammes, which is about 10 teaspoons,” he said
Henry said the global figures show Jamaica, Kuwait and Barbados topping the list of children between 13 and 15 years old who consume more than one bottle of soda daily.
“Seventy-five percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 15 drink more than one soda per day, on average, according to the Global School-based Student Health Survey in 2010. The girls in Jamaica are ranked third, only beaten by Kuwait and Barbados. We have serious problems,” he said.
The 18-member task force, which falls under the Ministry of Health, will also probe the level of sugar, salt and trans fat in foods.
It is also expected to advocate for better labeling of products to help Jamaicans make wiser food choices.