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Bitter lesson - Parents say schools serving too much sugar

Published:Wednesday | March 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton chats with Deborah Chin, executive director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, during a presentation of key findings on the Obesity Prevention Public Opening Survey. The function was held at Spanish Court Hotel, St Andrew, yesterday.

More than 61 per cent of Jamaican parents believe that the school has become a place that poses serious health threats to the lives of their children because access to sugary drinks is too easy.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, in sharing findings from the Heart Foundation of Jamaica's Obesity Prevention Public Opinion Survey, said that the results revealed that parents were extremely concerned about their children's health. He sought to reassure persons that their concerns would not be ignored.

The study further revealed that almost 80 per cent of parents of children under age 16 were concerned about the effects of sugary drinks on their children's health; more than 60 per cent of Jamaican adults were concerned about the effects of sugary drinks on their own health; while more than 61 per cent of parents were either very concerned or extremely concerned about their child's access to sugary drinks in school.

"It is significant because parents are concerned. They want to see their children better off than them, from a health perspective," said Tufton. The school represents, in this instance, not a place of safety, as it relates to health and wellness, but a health threat to their child because of overexposure to (unhealthy) foods - in this case, sugary drinks," he said.

The minister said, however, that the study is a signal that citizens were taking responsibility for their health and the welfare of their family.

"We have seen other studies within the schools, which have shown consumption of sugary drinks. The average child consumes up to three times more than the average citizen, based on accessibility, cost, and marketing efforts. What parents are saying to us is that they are concerned," he said.

"That's a very loud and profound statement, and to do nothing about that would have significant implications."