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Caribbean Wellness Day Message

Good day to all the people of the Caribbean.

Caribbean Wellness Day is celebrated by CARICOM countries on the second Saturday in September, as part of a unified response to promote health and prevent and control the epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases or NCDs.

As Executive Director of the newly established Caribbean Public Health Agency – CARPHA, I’m pleased to celebrate this Wellness Revolution with the families of our 24 CARPHA Member countries.

This occasion is all the more satisfying because we only recently completed our long term planning, in which 21 countries, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Pan American Health Organization participated.

In keeping with the Wellness Day theme for 2013 – Safeguarding the health of our youth for a brighter future, we will be promoting healthy weights to help prevent and control the epidemic of childhood obesity within the Region.

I must tell you that studies presented at the CARPHA Scientific Conference in May of this year, pointed to Caribbean countries as having some of the highest rates of obesity in children in the world.  In fact, 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 of our adolescents are either overweight or obese.  This is mainly due to poor dietary intake and low levels of physical activity.

Particularly worrying are the low levels of consumption of fruits and vegetables and high levels of consumption of carbonated beverages in our schools.

This is not only a matter of individual choice, but a matter of environments that promote obesity, for example the easy availability of high fats, salt and sugar in food; the heavy advertising of junk food to children; and a high level of screen time, watching television and video games.

In keeping with our role at CARPHA, to prevent disease, promote and protect health, we will be implementing a multi-level programme to promote healthy weight and prevent and control childhood obesity. This comprehensive programme was successful in changing the lifestyles of children in France and in reducing the problem of obesity.  A CARPHA scientific expert group has identified this as a unique best practice globally.

However, there will need to be significant support and investment from the public and private sectors and I remain confident that this will occur given the need to protect the health of our children.

CARPHA, along with our member states, has set the strategic goal of reducing avoidable deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025.  We will also seek to reduce and reverse the levels of childhood obesity.  You see, at CARPHA, we see that the need to act is paramount to safeguard the health of our children.  And we promise to act – together with member states and our partners in health, civil society and the private sector.  We will advocate for social and policy changes that reduce and reverse the epidemic of obesity in our children.

I thank you.

Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director, CARPHA

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