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Child obesity at epidemic levels
Obesity among children in T&T has become an epidemic, says research medical officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Anjani Sharma. “This has been validated by local studies, such as that carried out by the University of the West Indies (UWI) on overweight schoolchildren in Trinidad, which showed a high risk of developing diabetes in the one to 17 age group.
“Studies carried out by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute and the T&T Olympic Committee have confirmed overweight and obesity throughout the island,” Sharma said yesterday. Sharma made the comment as she read a speech on behalf of Health Minister, Dr Fuad Khan, during the opening of the Regional Paediatric Conference at Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s. Two weeks ago, Khan stirred up controversy when he publicly stated that nationals of T&T were too “lazy” and need to exercise and have healthier lifestyles.
Sharma again detailed some of the information which justified concerns by the minister, saying in some areas the obesity rate is as high as three out of four children. “In the counties of St Patrick and Victoria, approximately one out of every four school aged children is overweight or obese, and in the county of St George, approximately one out of every three primary and secondary schoolchild is overweight. These figures are comparable and in some places worse that in the United States,” she said.
She said this high rate of obesity has led to societal problems. “The issue of childhood obesity has created a significant healthcare burden on our society and threatens the well-being of our future generations. “It is imperative that agencies work together to develop and implement strategies at all levels. From the Government and the food and beverage industries, to our schools, communities as well at an individual level,” she said. She added that the regional health authorities (RHAs) have already begun to address the problem.
“The Primary Child Care Assessment Unit at Barataria, and soon at St James, will accommodate referrals of overweight children,” Sharma said. She said the ministry hosted the We Fit and Healthy Me camps for the past three years, as well as a school health caravan for primary school pupils in 2013.