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Health minister backing education campaign on healthy eating at schools

Samuel Sukhnandan, SNO reporter

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Health Minister Alvina Reynolds is supporting calls made by CARICOM to reduce the sale of salty foods and sweet beverages to youth across the region.

Reynolds believes that this move is good, especially for St. Lucia because it will help to bring about a reduction of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including diabetes and hypertension, among the young population locally.

The health minister, who was speaking on a local radio station, said that it is evident young people are the ones who most times consume fast food, which has high contents of salt and other harmful ingredients.

Reynolds said to avoid this, her ministry will do whatever it takes to ensure the youth remains healthy, and generally encourage healthier eating habits  nationwide. She said however that the culture of good eating habits must start at home, and citizens must ensure that they eat healthy diets, which include adopt including fruits and vegetables in their diets.

“When we look at obesity, diabetes and hypertension, these are things we have to be concerned about; and what better way to start this, but from our young children … we need to protect them, we need to teach them what are the right things to eat … I think it’s a good discussion we can look at at the Caricom level,” the minister noted.

Reynolds revealed plans to start an education awareness campaign on this issue in schools, starting with the Babonneau Secondary School. Teachers and students will also engage in physical education practice, she informed.

In addition to that, the Ministry of Health will also be reviewing the school feeding programmes, aimed at monitoring what is sold there. The objective is to reduce the number of items being sold that contains a high percentage of salt or sweet, which could have future effects on their health.

Following a recent meeting, CARICOM member states were urged to establish regional standards for “clear, consistent, food labeling” while also banning, or at least limiting, the marketing of energy dense, high salt, foods and beverages to children.

The recommendations are contained in an 80-page report released at the Second International Conference on NCDs of Children and Adolescents.

The report notes that while most Caribbean countries have played a significant role globally in advancing the response to NCDs, “there are no national policies against advertising of unhealthy foods to children or against the harmful use of alcohol.”

It said also that no CARICOM country has national policies or major initiatives aimed at reducing salt intake of the population, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure, which is a major problem among Caribbean people and a major cause of heart disease.

The report urges regional governments to ban, or “at the very least limiting” the marketing of energy dense, high salt, foods and beverages to children, as well as promote the reduction in salt consumption and reduction in consumption of sugar sweetened beverages including fruit juices.

The authors of the report are also calling for the establishment of regional standards for clear, consistent, food labeling, as well as the development, implementation and monitoring of national strategies on the reduction in harm from alcohol. It also calls for NCDs “to be fully addressed within national development plans.”

 

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One comment

  1. Well that's a start! The Ministers for Health and Education need to address this situation urgently. There is a particular school in the south for almost the entire week its; rice, chicken, peas. SMH! The school is complaining that the Ministry don't provide much. It's a shame!!!

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