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Tackling obesity: prevention is better than cure

Published:Monday | July 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMRomaine Newell

The alarmingly high percentage of Jamaicans suffering from obesity has prompted a two-day conference, which gets underway today, to address the problem.

"Prevention is better than cure, as my mother used to say," Dr Kirk Bolton, president of The Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition and Dietetics (JAPINAD), told The Gleaner.

"Therefore, learning how to reduce and prevent this problem is of paramount for both the health and indirect economic implications that obesity has on our nation."

He added, "It important we learn the risk factors for overweight and obesity, and do what is necessary to prevent it. And those risk factors include: poor eating habits and overeating; limited exercise; stressful life events; family and peer problems; low self-esteem; depression and other emotional issues."

The JAPINAD International Obesity Conference, which starts today and ends tomorrow at Knutsford Court Hotel, St Andrew, is expected to address these issues. The theme of the conference is conditions: 'Tackling Obesity through Partnership, Policy and Practice using a Multi-sectoral approach'.

Bolton said there is also need for additional legislation to prevent increased consumption of high-fat foods, sugar-sweetened beverage, increased salt intake and sweets and pastries, especially in the learning environment.


Changes at schools


He said a healthy-school initiative is necessary to prevent and or minimise availability of these foods within the school and its proximity.

"Legislation to support the inclusion of healthy eating and exercise in the curriculum is also a an integral approach, as well as finding a balance for physical education throughout all grades of primary and secondary school," the doctor shared.

Studies have shown that obesity leads to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer. NCDs account for approximately 70 per cent of premature deaths.

According to a World Bank study, 60 per cent of Jamaicans, 35 to 54, were either overweight or obese. It also revealed 70 per cent of Jamaican women were overweight, 80 per cent of which were in the 35-54 age group. From as early as adolescence, more Caribbean women are overweight than men.

- Romaine Newell