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Obesity on the rise

Health Minister concerned over latest research...

By Julien Neaves

HEALTH Minister Dr Fuad Khan has expressed concern that in the past decade the local obesity rate, including among women and children, has risen from 25 per cent to about 55 per cent.

“Women in Trinidad and Tobago are becoming, sorry to say it ladies, fatter,” he commented.

Khan later added: “And if you look at Carnival you will know what I’m talking about.”

He was speaking with the media following the third meeting of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha’s) executive board yesterday at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.

He reported that from the Ministry’s investigations and research, childhood obesity and overall obesity had risen 30 per cent in the last ten years.

“And everytime I look at the fast food industry I think look I’m losing the war,” he commented.

In October last year Khan banned the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital from accepting a US$10,000 donation from international fast food chain McDonald’s, citing the link between the fast food industry and childhood obesity and also the “subliminal message” of its clown mascot Ronald McDonald.

During his feature address at the Carpha meeting, he reiterated that the Health Ministry was reviewing the National School Health Policy “to give new direction” in the promotion of pupils’ health from pre-school to secondary school to university, and looking at a policy for reducing childhood obesity.

“(We’re) trying to put a national school policy to look at young children and change their way of thinking,” he later told the media.

He noted that research had shown that fats were not causing people to become “fat” but it was really excessive intakes of sugars and carbohydrates. He advised people to watch their sugar, alcohol and carbohydrate intake, and noted if they walked an hour a day they would not need a health facility. He also encouraged people to write to him about following reports of people being denied usage of exercise equipment at public health facilities.

“On that note anyone who has a problem, whether in the public sector, private sector, could write the minister directly with a complaint. There is nothing stopping that,” he added.

Khan was responding to a memo presented by Opposition MP Dr Amery Browne during the no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister last Friday in Parliament. Browne reported that the memo from the North Central Regional Health Authority had advised workers not to write the minister or others on personal complaints and advised Khan to look into the issue.

Khan yesterday responded that any staff member can write the Health Minister directly on policy or problems on policy, once they are not trying to seek their own personal interest, and added that he was looking into the matter of the memo.

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