Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Heart Foundation concerned about marketing unhealthy food to children

Published:Wednesday | January 31, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Executive Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ), Deborah Chen

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) is expressing concern about the marketing of unhealthy products to children in Jamaica as the country grapples with a high level of childhood obesity.

Executive Director of the HFJ, Deborah Chen, explained that children are being targeted in advertising campaigns that are geared towards the purchase of food with little or no nutritional value.

"If you pay attention to prime-time television and other media, you would see that there are many ads targeting our young children. The sugary, sweetened beverage is of particular concern, bearing in mind that added sugars have no nutritional benefit. So you may be getting the calories but not getting anything nutritious from them," she stated.

Chen pointed out that the obesity situation in Jamaica, which she said is largely due to unhealthy nutrition, is of particular concern, as it is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases.

She added that the rate of childhood obesity in Jamaica has increased, and is now at a high of 30 per cent.

The executive director commended the steps being taken by the Government to address childhood obesity.

She said that the HFJ welcomes the collaboration between the ministries of health and education on the School Nutrition Policy.

"It will address what is being sold in schools and on the school campuses, and that should involve talking to parents and involving the whole family. I'm sure some education will take place around that policy, as it is currently being worked on and is to be implemented by the start of the next school year," Chen pointed out.

"We don't wish to see our children of younger and younger ages having diabetes. We don't want to see diseases that are normally middle- and old-age diseases starting to get to younger people."

The HFJ joins the rest of the world in observing Heart Month during February of each year. The theme for 2018 is 'Healthy Nutrition: Know Your Labels'.