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Child Month Wishes | Feed the youth right! - Stakeholders call for changes to diet and improved health-care delivery for children

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser
State Minister for Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green (left) and Digicel CEO David Butler, greet grade-six students at Jesse Ripoll Primary School recently.

Proper nutrition and the delivery of health-care services have been identified as two critical elements required for the improvement of quality of life for Jamaica's children as the island marks Child Month.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green says Jamaica can reduce the number of children with obesity by paying attention to what they eat and by ensuring that exercise becomes a way of life for them.

"The Government will have to work with parents and caregivers in that regard, and intends to embark on a number of initiatives, including the strengthening of the school-feeding programme to ensure that students get at least one nutritious meal a day," Green told The Sunday Gleaner.


Community health aides


He argued that there is a need for a stronger role for community health aides in coaching parents and guardians on healthy best practices for their children.

Opposition Spokesperson on Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna argued for major shifts in the agricultural and health-care policies to ensure that child nutrition is prioritised.

Child psychologist Gemma Gibbon, in making her case for improvements in child nutrition, called on retailers to provide more sugar-free options for children and suggested that more information on nutrition be disseminated on maternity wards.

Turning her attention to the health-care system, Lone Hvass, the United Nations Children's Fund deputy representative in Jamaica, said there needs to be sustained, predictable and effective investment in health services for children.

In the meantime, Jamaica youth ambassador Sujae Boswell suggested that investment in health services should be focused on upgrading the facilities that cater to children.

According to Boswell, there needs to be monitoring for each child's specific health needs from birth through the implementation of a public health card database system.

For Professor of Child Health and Development Maureen Samms-Vaughn and Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie of the Dudley Grant Memorial Trust, a comprehensive approach is needed for child health care.

"Early identification and intervention for children and families at psychosocial, developmental or behavioural risk could be a first step.

"This will allow us to identify children and families at risk and provide them with the support that they need before they get into trouble," said Samms-Vaughn.