World Obesity Day: PAHO launches Creative Play Initiative in Barbados schools

kids playing

Bridgetown, Barbados 4 March 2024 (PAHO) – Creative Play, a new initiative from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness of Barbados, aims to address the growing issue of overweight and obesity in children through the development of innovative approaches to encourage physical activity in schools.

According to data from a school health study in Barbados, 30% of school children are either overweight or obese. Increasingly sedentary lifestyles are a key driver of this. The Creative Play Initiative aims to tackle this through the implementation of life-sized versions of children’s games, such as Snakes and Ladders, to encourage increased physical activity at school.

“Not all children are interested in competitive sports, but most children enjoy playing and having fun,” Donna Barker, Senior Health Promotion Officer at the Barbados Ministry of Health and Wellness, and creator of the Creative Play Initiative, said.

“While on social media, I came across several videos showing colorful and stimulating obstacle courses drawn onto yards or play areas for children. I though this could be introduced in Barbadian primary schools as a creative way for children to stay active since that is where they spend most of the day,” she added.

Two schools were chosen to pilot the initiative, the St. Albans Primary School and the Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School. So far, the Creative Play areas have been well received by both students and teachers and provide schools with a space to reinforce concepts taught in subject areas such as mathematics, social sciences, and health through play activities.

With the increased use of mobile phones, tablets and other devices, children are not as physically active as in the past, highlighted Dr. Amalia Del Riego, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. “We must think outside the box and be creative to get kids to be more active. This initiative achieves this by infusing excitement into physical activity.”

As the pilot continues to prove successful, PAHO and Barbados plan to expand the initiative to other schools throughout the next academic year. There are also plans to join forces with other partners to expand the initiative throughout the country.

One in eight people live with obesity

New data released by the World Health Organization last week shows that, worldwide, one in eight people are now living with obesity. Obesity among adults has more than doubled since 1990 and has quadrupled among children and adolescents aged 5-19 years.

At the World Health Assembly in 2022, Member States adopted the WHO Acceleration plan to stop obesity, which supports country-level action to address this growing issue.