Childhood obesity is a major concern across the globe and here in Barbados. It is also a special area of focus for the Rotary Club of Barbados West (RCBOW).
According to Dr. Audrey Morris, the advisor on food and nutrition at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the number of obese and overweight children in the Caribbean has doubled in the last decade.
In Barbados, the Global School Health Survey revealed that 31.9 percent of students were overweight and 14.4 per cent obese. The study found that 18.5 percent of students surveyed consumed fast food three or more days per week and 73.3 percent drank one or more carbonated beverage every day.
Only 12.7 per cent reported eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day over a 30-day period, and 15 percent reported eating no fruit or vegetables during the same period.
It is likely that obese children will continue to be obese during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood unless there is early intervention. Studies show that there is a link between childhood obesity and the increased risk of non-communicable diseases.
Obese children are more likely to develop health issues in their adult life such as heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and cancers.
RCBOW joined the national initiative to tackle childhood obesity through its specifically designed programs. Rene Butcher, president of RCBOW in his comments stated that: “Obesity remains a significant contributory factor in the increasing incidents of chronic noncommunicable diseases.
The Rotary Club of Barbados West believes that early intervention is the best course of addressing this problem. As a result, our programs this rotary year, have had a particular focus on childhood obesity.
“We hope, in this way, to encourage positive habits of exercise and diet in our children which will continue into adulthood.
“Our first program in November, last year, invited children in the community to participate in an online RCBOW campaign ‘No-sugar-November Challenge’. The campaign encouraged the children to reduce consumption of sugary foods and beverages as well as to exercise.”
RCBOW also supports a breakfast feeding program at the good shepherd primary school and recently redesigned the menu with a focus on healthier meal options.
Meal options include spinach, eggs and toast, lentil beef burgers, oatmeal and raisin or banana pancakes, egg and cheese muffins, tuna sandwiches, fruit, and juice.
The change in the menu was well received and feedback indicated that the children enjoy the healthier meal options. The principal at Good Shepherd Primary, Olivia Hinds, described the program as a blessing that “has captured the attention of all students”.
She said: “Breakfast, the first meal of the morning, is necessary to keep our students focused and alert, enabling them to participate in the activities of the day. Those students who participate in this program are rejuvenated, energized and ready to learn.”
It is hoped that this will help to promote healthier eating habits from a young age which will extend to adulthood, resulting in decreased rates of obesity and decreased risk in non-communicable diseases.
RCBOW is also embarking on an education program using short videos featuring chefs, parents and children demonstrating how to prepare quick and nutritious meals and snacks. These videos will be posted on the RCBOW social media platforms.
District Governor Sonya Alleyne, in speaking of the initiative stated: “Almost three years ago, Rotary District 7030 recognized that childhood obesity was having a huge impact on non-communicable diseases in adults.
With that in mind, then District Governor-elect Lisle Chase assembled a high-powered team from around the district led by Past President Virginia Asin-Oostburg to formulate a program that the clubs of the district can use to tackle this growing problem.
I am happy to say today that 98 per cent of clubs around the district, like the Rotary Club of Barbados West, have risen to the challenge and implemented programs that showcase the problem and provide solutions that are already reaping benefits in the communities. I am also happy that this initiative is a long-term goal for the district and will continue into the future.
The district committee has reached out to governments and other partners like the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, the University of the West Indies, and others in coordinating this campaign.
The response has been encouraging.
Congratulations to the Rotary Club of Barbados West for truly making an impact as we serve to change lives. The program will yield benefits for generations to come. Wishing you continued success.” (PR)