Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 05, 2016 (SKNIS): Minister of State with responsibility for Health, Honourable Wendy Phipps has said that what is eaten is a matter of personal choice, and so for health to be maintained it is a matter of choosing healthy foods rather than unhealthy foods.
She noted this at the Nutrition Mascot and Slogan Design Competition that took place today, May 05. Shannan Christian of the Saddlers Secondary School was awarded first place with her Healthy Heather mascot.
The Minister noted that many illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and certain types of heart disease have their genesis in obesity. She reiterated as outlined in her 2016 budget address that upwards of 70 percent of the local population could be considered obese and among the school-aged population, 14 percent of children are obese. It was noted that the fast food industry had become global and had penetrated several markets, including the Caribbean.
“While it might be easy to knock the fast food industry and say that is the cause, at the end of the day, dietary choices are exactly that, it’s a matter of choice,” Minister Phipps said, noting that because there is a fast food industry it does not mean that what is offered in such eating establishments is all unhealthy. “Most of them offer fish burgers, they offer salads, they offer corn on the cob, it’s about what you pick. At the end of the day, it’s about eating in moderation, understanding your body, which foods work well with you, which foods are also inflammatory.”
Minister Phipps further noted that the Ministry of Health recognizes that issues of obesity and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have to be dealt with on a multifaceted level including finding the underlying factors that cause overeating.
“We also need to dig a little deeper, and figure out what else is missing,” Minister Phipps said, acknowledging that it is not just a matter of adapting a healthy lifestyle. “We also have to be looking at what causes somebody to overeat. What is the family situation? Is there a predisposition in the family towards issues of obesity. Is it a case where we’re also confronting issues of child sexual abuse. So overeating then becomes a response to dealing with the pain, because we have issues like that.”
It was noted that seeking out the underlying issues is a constant challenge and they sometimes have to do with self-esteem.
“It’s about how you see yourself, about matters to do with self-love,” Minister Phipps said. “How do you value yourself as an individual? Do you think you’re worthwhile, or worthy? Do you have something to look forward to in life? Do you have children you want to see grow up into adulthood? And if your answer to all of these questions is “yes I want a better life for me and for them,” then that will help people to make the better choices they need to make.”
It was also noted that even at high level meetings such as the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) of CARICOM, matters of NCDs and their negative effects on productivity, and the cost involved, are oftentimes matters for discussion.