Saturday, 1 October 2011

A tool to fight obesity and NCDs in the Caribbean

Candice Ramessar (Caribbean Project Coordinator) launches a tool to help fight child obesity in the Caribbean region.

Yesterday we launched Consumers International’s (CI) 'Manual for monitoring food marketing to children', in Jamaica. The launch was undoubtedly a success. For me the best moment of the day was a young lady who came to CI’s office after the launch to ask for a copy so she can review its applicability to her work in food standards. 

The launch was at the picturesque campus of the St George’s High School in downtown Kingston, behind the world famous Sabina cricket ground.

Ms Dolsie Allen, CEO of the Consumer Affairs Commission of Jamaica, introduced the manual, citing some statistics of the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean region.

Protests over fried chicken

The principal of St George’s High School, Ms Campbell, said she took fried chicken off the menu of the school cafeteria for three days of the week at the all-boys high school - this resulted in protests on the campus. She was very happy to be associated with the launch of the manual and recommended that the policy makers and planners use it to monitor the marketing of food to Jamaica’s children.

Turning food theory into practice

Candice and Minister Christopher Tufton discuss manual
The Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce - whose ministry has responsibilities for consumer affairs - Dr Christopher Tufton, said that the manual is definitely a first step in the right direction. He said the manual is theoretical but that he is willing to commit human and other resources in working with other stakeholders, including the private sector, in applying the manual to monitor food marketing to children in Jamaica. He said he did not see a conflict with the tightening of marketing regulations and private sector and business development, for which his Ministry also has responsibility.

The manual was then officially presented to the Minister.

Over 70% of women in Caribbean obese

The head of the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute headquartered in Jamaica, Dr Fitzroy Henry, shocked the audience by informing them that statistics indicate that more than 70 percent of women and more than 10 percent of pre-schoolers in the Caribbean were obese. He observed that the manual will be an important tool for his institute in their work in reversing these unwelcome trends in the region, contending that obesity in children affects their brain development.

In praise of healthy food

Student gives impromptu plea
The St George’s choir provided two beautiful renditions of Jamaican folk songs that extolled the virtues of green bananas and mangoes. A student of the school then asked if he could say a few words. He passionately pleaded with his fellow students not to choose food based on color or the food ads, but based on its nutritional content. He asked his fellow students to choose their food wisely now, before they also developed the health issues he has, which force him to watch everything he eats.

Fresh fruit for the audience

The program ended with a thank you by Dr Lisa Lawrence of the National Consumers League. Dr Lawerence thanked everybody for a morning well spent. The audience that included representatives of the Jamaica Standards Bureau, Ministry of Education Food Feeding Programme, the Advertisement Association of Jamaica, Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, advocates for children, youth organisations, and youth magazine reporters were then treated to some fresh local fruits and juices.

The launch also represented for me another great collaboration between the CI project office and its Jamaican members, the National Consumer League and the Consumer Affairs Commission. I would also be remiss not to mention, Gisele Perry, CI project assistant, who worked tirelessly in making this event a success.

It is our hope to replicate this activity in Trinidad and Tobago as well as some of the other Eastern Caribbean states as part of Consumers International's work in the Caribbean.


  1. Great work CI Jamaica; sometimes I think that the US has caused the globalization of obesity, particularly amongst children. Thus, I hope you can spare a few copies of the manual for the US FTC and FDA to digest, and hopefully take action on.

    And, certainly send a copy to the First Lady as this is her platform issue.

    Best from Italy where the "Mediterranean diet" is slowly but surely becoming McMediterranean ...

    Jami Solli

    PS nice touch serving fruit :)

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