Obesity, overweight on the rise among Caribbean women
Being obese places an individual at a high risk for developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, later in life. Non-communicable diseases and childhood obesity are priority health and economic issues for health officials worldwide.
"Studies have revealed that women in the Caribbean have higher rates of obesity in terms of body mass index (BMI) compared to men. They also have higher rates of abdominal obesity and are likely to be three times more obese than men," said Dr Virginia Asin-Oostburg, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), director for Surveillance, disease prevention and control, in observance, of World Obesity Day.
Obesity is a serious, chronic disease that can have a negative effect on one's health. In a recent report, the Pan American Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization stated that "obesity and overweight are on the rise throughout the Caribbean and Latin America and are particularly prevalent among women and children".
Realising that a societal approach is necessary to reduce the burden of obesity and diet-related NCDs, CARPHA continues to support its member states and other regional organisations in their efforts to minimise the impact of obesity in the Caribbean.
SEVERAL INITIATIVES TO TACKLE PROBLEM
Several initiatives are being spearheaded by CARPHA to address overweight and obesity in the region. These include improving food and nutrition surveillance systems and the implementation of activities associated with its Childhood Obesity Action Plan.
Dr Oostburg further stated, "We recently unveiled our six-point policy package for healthier food environments during a CARICOM event at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). This initiative, which is aligned with the World Health Organization's targets for NCDs, includes mandatory food labelling, nutritional standards and guidelines for schools, and reduction in the marketing of unhealthy foods."
The lack of knowledge and awareness of weight stigma can have a negative effect on individuals and lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and suicide, thus undermining overall health.
In this regard, CARPHA urges governments, community leaders, healthcare professionals, and individuals to work together to create an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle.
CARPHA encourages persons to follow a healthy eating plan; increase their physical activity by exercising daily, even if only moderately; monitor weight regularly; and lastly, be consistent.
Following these measures would go a long way in reducing the rate of obesity in the Caribbean.