Wed | Jan 16, 2019

HFJ launches phase three of Obesity Prevention Programme

Published:Monday | October 15, 2018 | 12:25 AMPaul Clarke and Maurice Silvera
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton and Dr Erica Gordon Veitch, paediatric dentist, interact with students from Seaward Primary and Junior High School at the press launch of Phase Three of the obesity prevention campaign held at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew last Thursday.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has announced a new phase in the Ministry’s media campaign against over-consumption of sugary drinks aimed at curtailing increasing levels of childhood obesity and tooth decay.

Tufton was a guest at Thursday’s press launch of the third phase of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) Obesity Prevention Campaign at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, where he noted that the third phase of the campaign is specifically aimed at creating a healthier environment for young Jamaicans.

“Safeguarding the health of our population starts with our children. We can help lower the number of obese adults suffering ill-health and premature death by preventing children from becoming overweight and obese,” noted Tufton.

He mentioned that the new phase represented a more holistic approach to public health, as in addition to restrictions on sugary drinks, the ministry has plans of fully implementing a version of its 'Jamaica Moves' campaign in schools.

According to the minister, oral health is also in focus as a result of the over-consumption of sugary drinks, and that this new phase will directly deal with that aspect of the health initiative.

Tufton told The Gleaner that all the information revealed since the launch of the programme are facts, which are based on evidence in the hospital system, and through research and clinical trials.

“There are other things we are doing, and this includes on the oral side of things. This includes a sealant programme, which means that we take a cohort form the schools and strengthen their teeth through this oral sealant programme, which was started in 2016, but which we intend to ramp up.

He stressed that the fundamental principle in targeting young people is that they are more susceptible to influences and that from a public health perspective, the ministry has a duty to influence their behaviour at an early stage.

Three out of 10 children in Jamaica are either overweight or obese and this number is rising dramatically. Childhood obesity in Jamaica has increased nearly 64 per cent in seven years, according to the Global School-based Student Health Study (2017). This underscores the importance of this public awareness campaign.

"This campaign has been prompted by increasing rates of childhood obesity and tooth decay in Jamaica," said Deborah Chen, executive director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica.