Trinidad: Obesity rising among students

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Trinidad: Obesity rising among students
President of the Diabetes Association of T&T Andrew Dhanoo at Wednesday’s JSC meeting. * OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT
President of the Diabetes Association of T&T Andrew Dhanoo at Wednesday’s JSC meeting. * OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT

(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.

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