Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Jamaica faces non-communicable disease epidemic - Ferguson

Published:Thursday | March 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

HEALTH MINISTER Dr Fenton Ferguson on Tuesday underscored the need for a revolutionary approach to healthy lifestyles on the island, saying it is most desirable to start to inculcate a habit of healthy eating in the nation's young.

Speaking during a debate on the food and nutrition security policy, Ferguson said it is important that the Government engender healthy lifestyle practices in the nation's children.

"Early habits are hard to break. If children are not properly guided very early, then, chances are, these nutritional challenges will follow them throughout their life," the minister said.

He told legislators that unhealthy eating habits in children will result in a vicious cycle, pointing out that 70 per cent of persons who die in the country annually die because of non-communicable diseases. He said 34 per cent of these persons die before age 70, and argued that Jamaica is facing a "non-communicable disease epidemic".

"Jamaica, like the rest of the developing world, is facing one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. It threatens to undermine social and economic development, shaking the very foundations on which we build progress," Ferguson said.

Informed decisions

The minister said there is a need for disclosure of nutritional information and caloric value make-up on foods, including fast foods, so that persons can make more informed choices. He also said it is time Jamaicans seek to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets.

Meanwhile, Education Min-ister Ronald Thwaites said it is critically important that the state seeks to ensure its youngest citizens are given the best opportunity of accessing nutritious meals. He pointed to the $4 billion-a-year school feeding programme, which he said is continually being assessed to determine whether it is meeting the need of students who depend on the programme for meals.

"It used to be the stock-in trade calculation that the school feeding programme should provide a third of the daily nutrients that the children require," Thwaites said.

He said, from observation and from studies now being done, it is clear that one-third is no longer adequate as, for many students, the food they get at school is all they eat for the day.

Thwaites said that, in addition to liquid eggs and local juices that have been incorporated into the school feeding programme, the authorities are seeking to add more local items to the plate of school students.