Kingston, Jamaica, March 7, 2022 (PAHO/WHO) – 54% of Jamaicans are overweight or obese while 1 in 3 live with hypertension. There has also been a 42% increase in the prevalence of diabetes since 2001 and 80% of all deaths in the country are due to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). These troubling facts were brought into sharp focus as Jamaica joined countries across the world in observing World Obesity Day on Friday, March 4, under the theme, Everybody Needs to Act.
The World Obesity Federation predicts that one billion people globally will live with obesity by 2030. World Obesity Day therefore aims to promote practical solutions to end the obesity crisis.
“Obesity is linked to increased risk of NCDs which increases the likelihood of complications from COVID-19 and puts an increased strain on the health system. While the Government of Jamaica has implemented several policies including the Food-based Dietary Guidelines, and wellness campaigns to support proper nutrition and encourage physical activity, combatting this crisis requires each of us to take responsibility for our health,” shared Hon. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness.
He continued, “all sectors of society have a role to play in ending this crisis. Workplaces through virtual wellness and healthy lifestyle programmes can help employees while civil society must continue to advocate and implement programmes at the community level – we are in this together.”
In the region of the Americas, obesity rates have tripled since 1975. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) provides technical cooperation to countries to promote measures intended to reduce the risk of developing of obesity. These include breastfeeding, reducing demand for sugary drinks and products with high caloric content and low nutritional value by implementing taxes on these foods. PAHO also advocates for the regulation of advertising of these foods and the establishment of front of package warning labels on food.
Commenting on the importance healthy eating among children, Mr. Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO Representative to Jamaica stated, “The obesity crisis is not alien to our children. In the region of the Americas, 3.9 million children under five years old are overweight, and we run the risk of perpetuating negative health outcomes in our region. We can help our children by modelling the lifestyle where we make healthy food choices and become more physically active.”
It is recommended that adults do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity; or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity; or a combination of throughout the week. Children and adolescents require 60-minutes of moderated intensity daily physical activity. Activities can include stretching, dancing, running, taking the stairs, doing squats, jumping jacks and gardening.