New chairman of the group fighting childhood obesity in the island said she will continue the push for a national school nutrition policy.
Dr Kia Lewis was elected to become the second chairman of the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (BCOP Coalition) on July 5, replacing Suleiman Bulbulia, and said she wanted to create a healthy school environment for the island’s children.
“As a medical practitioner, I am confronted with the reality of the negative impact of childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases, on the lives of affected individuals and families,” she said in a news release.
“I am also keenly aware of the massive deleterious effects at the population level, both socially and financially. The statistics are staggering and disheartening with one in every three children being either overweight or obese and eight out of 10 deaths occurring as a result of non-communicable diseases annually.”
Lewis highlighted a recently released World Health Organisation (WHO) report on non-communicable diseases that stated Barbados – among many other countries in the Caribbean – had failed to reach several important health targets in the fight against NCDs.
She said it reinforced the need for Barbados and other countries in the Caribbean to prioritise the health of their people and appealed for the adoption of the front of package octagonal warning labels on food items.
“The Coalition will continue to advocate for empowerment of our citizens through front of package warning labelling,” she said.
“A cross sectoral approach is needed, with government, the business sector, civil society, communities, and families being engaged in the fight.
“We will continue to advocate for the creation of a healthy and supportive environment for our children and the wider society, through policy, education, and empowerment.”
Lewis said the Coalition hailed the decision of government to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as one of the evidence-based methods of reducing consumption of excessive sugars and calories.
“My hope is that as a nation, and as a region, we can continue to work together to reduce the scourge of early death and disability associated with the NCD pandemic and protect the most vulnerable members of our society, our children,” she said.
Reflecting on his time in charge of the Coalition, Bulbulia described it as “a powerful and fulfilling” journey.
“I had the privilege to be a part of some important steps forward and some wins, big and small, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, in the fight against childhood obesity and the related NCD,” he said.