Obesity debate

Secretary of Health and Social Services Claudia Groome-Duke is urging all Tobagonians to take personal responsibility for their health and general well-being.

She also wants all of Tobago to join her Division’s healthy homes healthy family and its wellness revolution.

She was speaking during last Thursday’s plenary sitting of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on a motion on obesity which she described as a worldwide phenomenon that contributed to lifestyle diseases. Other contributors were the Secretary of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment Godwin Adams, Secretary of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport Gary Melville, Secretary of Community Development and Culture Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus and Assistant Secretary Sheldon Cunningham.

Groome-Duke said managing obesity must be a cross-agency, inter-agency, inter-departmental and multi-partnership endeavour that has unanimous commitment from all stakeholders. In addition managing obesity required integrated planning across all Divisions of the THA and active collaboration and partnership with local businesses and other enterprises.

She said empowering the people to take responsibility for their own and their family’s health was germane to the success in which obesity was managed while policies created for managing it must be focussed, target driven, measurable and practicable.

Groome-Duke said the several programmes and initiatives that the Assembly has already implemented with great popularity and success continued to address the obesity crisis in leaps and bounds. These included the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) expansion of primary care service to place an emphasis on health promotion and preventative care to increase service user’s access to management of their own health; expansion of the primary health care services to include the services of fitness instructors to increase exercises amongst service users; and the pilot programme on the ban on the use of soft drinks on the compound of the Signal Hill Secondary School.

The Health Secretary said the Assembly was working to put a policy in place that will seek to decrease the amount of sugary foods, fried foods and carbonated beverages sold at schools and it was working assiduously to bring about change in school cafeterias, the school feeding programme and refreshments served at Assembly events. She added that instead of soft drinks there will be more natural fruit juices for children and absolutely no juices from concentrates.

She said cafeterias will also have to include more vegetables in meals and fruits instead of processed snacks. She said implementation, monitoring and evaluation would begin once the policy was approved by the THA Executive Council.

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