Food and health - making the link
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CTA. 2005. Food and health - making the link. Rural Radio Resource Pack 2005. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57155
Diet related illness in the Caribbean, the cost implications, and the need for people to eat and live more healthily.
Food and health - making the link Suggested introduction: Obesity. We?re probably all aware that rates of obesity are alarmingly high in the Caribbean, but just how big a problem is it, and what can be done? In the Bahamas, recent estimates suggest that two-thirds of the adult population is overweight, and as much as 31 per cent of adults are actually obese. So it?s hardly surprising poor diet is the biggest threat to health in the Caribbean; diseases like stroke, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are forcing thousands of people to give up work every year, and although it may not be obvious, there are many deaths result from diet-related illness. In developed countries it is estimated that an average of 7 per cent of gross domestic product is spent on treating diet-related illness alone. Healthy eating clearly deserves to be at the top of every country?s health policy plan, but it is not just health departments that need to be looking for answers. What we eat is, to a large extent determined by what is available, and that means that agriculture and trade departments must also get involved. The link between diet and health was one subject of discussion at a conference held earlier this year in Belize. Susanna Thorp spoke to two of the participants to find out more about the state of nutrition-related health in the Caribbean. Firstly Dr Ballyram, a Food Economist with the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, based in Kingston Jamaica. IN: ?We are over consuming sugars? OUT: ? an entire integrated approach.? DUR?N 3?34? Back announcement: Carmelta Barnes, a Senior Public Health Nutritionist at the Ministry of Health with her view that government departments need to work together to tackle the problem of poor health in The Bahamas. Transcript Ballyram We are over consuming sugars and sweeteners and we are over consuming oils and fats and under consuming fruits and vegetables. And this poses a problem because what we are also noticing is that people are getting much more overweight and obesity is now creeping in as a major problem. And of course you know this issue of overweight and obesity is that they are a risk factor for the main public health problems that we have in the region, namely the nutrition related chronic diseases, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart diseases, some forms of cancer and gall bladder diseases and other forms of illness related to food and nutrition. Thorp So these diseases may actually not be obviously related to the problem of obesity? Ballyram Yes you are right, people do not recognise this link between food and health. And also most important the link between health and food is not really translated at the level of policymakers between the link between agriculture, health and nutrition and perhaps other sectors of the economy. For example, if you are importing a lot of food that is reconstituted and high in sugars and these are available to people that is what they will be consuming. And it contributes therefore to the obesity and overweight and ultimately to the nutrition related chronic diseases. Thorp So not only have you got the cost of the import bill of that food but presumably you have also got a cost of treating all these nutrition related diseases? Ballyram Yes definitely there is no question about that. One recent study here in the region did a study on diabetes, quite in depth and they looked both at the direct costs which are the costs incurred when you visit the doctors and you buy medication and so on. And another cost, an indirect cost that is related to the fact that people cannot work and they will lose productivity and they have to retire earlier. So the total cost, for four countries of the region, Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, just to treat diabetes alone has been estimated to be over a billion US dollars a year. NARR With such a huge cost for treating these diseases, I suggested to Carmelta Barnes a nutritionist from the Bahamas that prevention was a much better option than cure. Barnes Definitely, it is far better, and this is what we would like for our health officials to really pay more attention to, instead of the curative part of it. And the treating, we would really like to go into the lifestyle changes, including food habits and physical activity, to help to prevent some of these chronic diseases. Thorp Do you think the general population is interested in changing their lifestyle? Barnes I think they are but I think it has to do with the stage of readiness. They are, but I don?t know if they want to do what it takes to actually change their lifestyle. You see people exercising and you see people trying to eat more vegetables and so forth. But I don?t think the environment itself is helping out any. The environment has to be more conducive to the lifestyle changes and maybe persons would be better able to stay on track. Thorp So it really requires a much more integrated approach. It?s not just health it needs a lot of other things in place? Barnes Yes definitely, it is not just health, it is agriculture, it is the environment itself, it?s preparing safe places for persons to walk, for persons to exercise. It is a social issue, the school, the Ministry of Education, the physical activity in the schools. You are correct, an entire integrated approach. End of track.