a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Vendors urged to provide healthier foods

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First Published - Friday 14th January 2011 Barbados Advocate - By Kerri Gooding

CHAIRMAN of the National Commission for Chronic Non. Communicable Diseases, Professor Trevor Hassell, spoke to the vendors at the Agrofest 2011 Food Vendors Workshop earlier this week on “The Link Between Food, Cooking, What We Eat and Health”.

According to remarks by the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, two of the most prominent risk factors involved in predisposing persons to chronic non-communicable diseases are poor diet and physical inactivity.

However, Prof Hassell also added tobacco as a primary risk factor, which in addition to three intermediate risk factors, namely hypertension, obesity and diabetes, “lead to three diseases which are heart disease, lung disease and cancer, all resulting in 50 per cent of all deaths in Barbados”.

He explained that the leading causes of death in CARICOM countries - with the exception of Jamaica - are heart disease, cancers, hypertension, diabetes and stroke in both males and females. Therefore, he implored the vendors when preparing and selling their food to consider not only the financial viable objective involved in their trade, but the impact and role that the food has on the health of the person.

The Professor noted that chronic non-communicable diseases do not simply impact on health, but they also have a significant cost factor associated.

“Two-thirds of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s annual budget is spent on chronic diseases. Two-thirds of the Drug Service budget is also spent on chronic diseases and five per cent of Barbados’ Gross Domestic Product is also spent on chronic diseases, with an estimated 846 million spent on hypertension annually", Hassell pointed out.

He then made the link for vendors to understand how they contribute to this costly problem and these heath issues.

“A poor diet is characterised as one having too high a content of salt, sugar, transfat or too large portions or too little fruits or vegetables. Therefore, if you serve foods with any of the aforementioned characteristics, then you are contributing to the poor diet consumed by citizens.”

When considering the intermediate risk factors, Prof. Hassell showed the statistics for Barbados’ population which stated that "three-fifths of all women are overweight while one-third of all women are obese...One third of all men are overweight and one-tenth are obese" The statistics also revealed that "54,000 Barbadians suffer from hypertension and nearly 16,000 Barbadians suffer from diabetes"

The Professor beseeched the vendors to “know the health hazards of the food and beverages you prepare and sell because at the end of the day vendors are important in changing the unhealthy eating habits and taste preferences of Barbadians through their knowledge of alternative food preparation processes and learning how to make the unhealthy foods more healthy at events such as the workshop.

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