(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — At least 50 per cent of primary and secondary school children are overweight and are at risk of becoming diabetics.
This startling statistic was disclosed as a Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration met to examine the current levels of childhood obesity and what the State was doing to promote a healthier lifestyle among children.
Among the initiatives, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health implemented in 2017 was the restriction of sugary drinks being sold in schools.
The schools also rolled out 4-H Clubs to encourage physical activity among children.
The factors that have led to childhood obesity the committee heard were poor diet and inactivity.
Officials of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, the Diabetes Association of T&T (DATT) and the National Parents Teachers’ Association (NPTA) were summoned before the JSC.
President of Diabetes Association Andrew Dhanoo admitted that his organisation had observed a shift of younger people being diagnosed with diabetes.
More people under the age of 30 being screened for type two diabetes, he said.
Dhanoo said more children are showing indicators of pre-diabetes and are overweight.
One indicator of pre-diabetes, he said, was the darkening of the skin behind the neck.
The organisation suggested significant changes in schools to promote healthy environment be adopted at the soonest.
“We are now seeing children developing diabetes and non-communicable diseases before their parents in some cases,” he said.
If this trend continues, Dhanoo said we would face a situation where children would die before their parents.
He said the statistics were provided by the Global Health School survey which was presented from 2011 to 2017.
President of the NPTA Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh said prevention of obesity should be our first practice rather than intervention.
“Childhood obesity has grown exponentially in our nation. In fact, it has, as I heard there has been a 400 per cent increase from 2009 and it has become a societal issue.”
Ali-Boodoosingh said following a health workshop held in 2017, it showed that Arima had the highest registered cases of child obesity.
“The most recent statistics presented to us showed that childhood obesity increased from 2.4 per cent in 1999 to 13 per cent in 2009 and in 2017 to 55 per cent — between the ages of five to 18 years. This phenomenon is frightening. This should be of serious concern to us, parents.”
She said many children in schools exhibit symptoms for diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Adding that there was no assessment of the health benefits of the meals provided to students through the school feeding programme. However, meals prepared for schools children by caterers are done in accordance with guidelines from a dietitian.
“A whole generation is at risk through obesity,” she warned.
While Richards said the figures were striking, Dhanoo said Ali-Boodoosingh’s 400 per cent increase was a bit inaccurate, stating that in 2007 the total obesity and overweight in primary and secondary school children “would have been one in three.”
From 2017, Dhanoo said the figure had increased to “one in two. So half our children are either overweight or obese. So its really like a 45 per cent increase.”
Richards urged the officials to work together in the interest of solving problems.
“If we are not working collaboratively we are spinning top in mud,” Richards said.