Friday, November 5, 2021 — There’s never been a more critical time to protect our children and young people from the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle and promote their overall well-being. This is the key message of a campaign launched by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), in partnership with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission and UNICEF.
The “Now More Than Ever: We Need To Protect Our Children” campaign seeks to increase awareness and knowledge of the dangers of ultra-processed foods (UPFs), which are high in sugars, fats and salts, and promote proper nutrition and physical activity as essential parts of children’s health, development and overall well-being. It will be rolled out across social and digital media in 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States, running until 26 November 2021.
According to PAHO Sub Regional Program Director, Mr. Dean Chambliss,
“Without effective measures to prevent unhealthy diets, the rise of NCDs will remain unstoppable, with irreparable consequences on health, as well as economic development and productivity.”
The campaign builds on the “Now More Than Ever: Better Labels, Better Choices, Better Health” campaign launched earlier this year to promote front-of-package warning labelling, and is part of a wider regional advocacy and communications effort to promote healthy food environments. It calls for more collective action to protect and support the health and well-being of children, emphasizing that they need nutritious foods in order to grow, learn and thrive.
Dr Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF’s Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area Office stated that
“It is vitally important that we give all our children the very best start in life by providing them with healthy foods – not those packed with sugars, fats and salts – and encouraging them to be as active as possible. If we don’t get this right, they face a lifetime of ill health and unfulfilled potential.”
Dr Didacus Jules, OECS Director General, reinforced the importance of healthy diets for children and the risks associated with the overconsumption of UPFs.
“We have very high rates of obesity which is increasing among our children. Ultra processed foods high in sugars, fats and salts have been proven to be exceedingly dangerous to our health. We must make it easier for parents and children to make informed choices.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the environments in which school-aged children live, grow, learn and play – upending their lives at critical stages of growth and development. For many, the shift to online learning and the closure of schools has led to more time spent on electronic devices for school and leisure, reduced access to formal physical activity, and diets further laden with unhealthy UPFs.
“The past two years have been a shock to our systems, leaving potentially long-lasting impacts – particularly on our children – where we are seeing disturbing signs of increased overweight and obesity, amongst other serious health issues,” Maisha Hutton, HCC Executive Director noted. “We urgently need to work together to fast-track rights-based, protective and preventive double and triple duty health regulations, including food policies which support children’s right to healthy food environments.”
According to the campaign, access to nutritious foods is a key aspect of environments meant to support the health, well-being and development of children and young people.
The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) is the only regional NCD alliance of health and non-health civil society organizations. HCC, with over 100 members, works closely with regional and international leaders in NCD prevention and control to leverage the power of civil society by strengthening and supporting its membership in the implementation of programmes aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with NCDs.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is an International Inter-governmental Organisation dedicated to regional integration in the Eastern Caribbean and works across its programmatic areas and in all Member States to consolidate the single economic space for enhanced economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the population. Founded in 1902, it is the world’s oldest international public health agency. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO and is the specialised health agency of the Inter-American system.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. In more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work, please visit: www.unicef.org and Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook