CHILDHOOD obesity continues to be a serious problem in Jamaica, with more than 11 per cent of children 10 to 15 years old and 35 per cent of teenagers between 15 to 18 years being classified as overweight or obese.
The Government is moving to address the issue and other lifestyle diseases, through the recently established National Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Committee.
Director, Health Promotion and Protection Unit, Ministry of Health, Dr Kevin Harvey, said childhood obesity is not only a problem in Jamaica. He says it is already an epidemic in many countries, and is on the rise in most others, with an estimated 22 million children, under the age of five years deemed to be overweight worldwide.
He said in England, obesity in adolescents and children of all ethnicities has increased nearly two-fold over the past 10 years. In Brazil, the prevalence of obesity in older children, aged six to 18, almost tripled between 1975 and 1997. In the United States, the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.
He notes that this shows that "we're having not just an issue relating to the non-communicable diseases among our adults, but our children and adolescents are suffering disproportionately."
He said the issue is of critical health concern for all governments based on its immediate and long-term health impacts.
He explained that a multi-sectoral approach, involving stakeholders from both the private and public sector, is needed to fight the epidemic.
Such an approach is now being developed through the NCD Committee, led by Dr Rosemarie Wright-Pascoe, he said.