Tufton makes healthy products appeal to manufacturers, marketers

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has called on food manufacturers and marketing companies to start developing products and campaigns that are more in sync with the Government's policy thrust towards healthy eating and lifestyles.

“Even while we appreciate your need for the bottom line, start applying a social conscience in developing products to support the health and well-being of our students and our population — otherwise you won't have any consumers to support you in the future and the biggest beneficiary of bad habits are going to be the pharmaceutical companies,” Dr Tufton stated on Thursday.

He was addressing hundreds of third to fifth form students from several high schools at a healthy lifestyle youth forum, hosted by Jamaica Cancer Society in partnership with the health ministry and several other organisations at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.

The call comes as the Government continues to ramp up activities expected to lead to regulations governing the sugar content of foods, new labelling standards for products, and as the Administration prepares to launch the school version of “Jamaica Moves”.

The Jamaica Moves campaign, spearheaded by the health ministry, promotes increased levels of physical activity among Jamaicans as one of the tools for staving off lifestyle diseases.

These activities are geared at tackling the country's growing obesity problem and the escalating rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among young people and the general population, as a result of unhealthy eating and lifestyles. The health ministry has, in recent times, expressed grave concern about local childhood obesity rates, which it says have doubled over the past five years and which continue to push up the incidence of NCDs. The Government says it spends more than $170 million per year on the treatment of NCDs such as cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, and cancer.

On Thursday, Dr Tufton indicated that the new nutrition policy would involve all providers of foods, not only canteen concessionaires but also those who vend within the immediate environs of schools. “Whether they are in the school or at the gate — I don't think we are going to ignore the ones out at the gate — and there are many of them,” he said.

“We are going to guide the foods that are provided on these school premises… we are not going to be motivated by the power of marketing and marketing companies, who have a right to market. But in the space of a school compound, students must know what they eat, know the consequences of what they eat, and in some instances we must regulate some of what is available in terms of what they have access to,” the health minister said.

The session, which was part of the cancer society's focus on adolescent health for the month of February, featured presentations from health experts who emphasised the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse through the use of graphic images. Speakers included experts from the ministry, the Tobacco Control Project, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, and the National Council on Drug Abuse.

He further informed the students that, “We are taking Jamaica Moves into the school system… it's going to be big because we are going to be reviewing the policy on physical education… we are going to say to students, the policy framework must include engaging in physical activity as part of the habit and the culture that we want to develop, to right what is clearly a wrong — which is the inactivity which leads you to be sick over time. That's our obligation”, Dr Tufton said.

The policy is being driven by the Ministry of Education.




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