Caricom Obesity Levels Highest Compared To The Rest Of The World

(CMC) – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says obesity is now a critical issue for developing countries, including member states, especially since the disease is affecting a significant number of children.

The agency made the statement as the world commemorated World Obesity Day today, observed under the theme “Every Body, Needs Everybody”.

According to the agency, the Caribbean has some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the Americas with adults, ranging from 18.9 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda to 31.6 per cent in the Bahamas.

It noted that, alarmingly, overweight and obesity prevalence levels in children aged five to nine years in Caricom countries are increasing, with the highest in the Bahamas at 39.5 per cent and the lowest in Saint Lucia at 26.1 per cent.

“The prevalence of obesity in Caribbean children is two to three times higher than the world. With the obesity epidemic in children and adolescents, the future seen through the risk factor lens for non communicable diseases (NCDs) looks dismal, as these young persons will be the future working generation but living with higher rates of NCDs,” the CARPHA said.

The agency said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of people with obesity, and other NCDs.

“It is not yet clear why there is a link between COVID-19 and obesity; however an increased susceptibility to respiratory problems, inflammation, and immunological disturbances in people living with obesity may all be contributing factors. Obesity also has a number of NCD co-morbidities such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease which have also been shown to increase risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes,” the agency added.

It said Caribbean countries should recommit efforts to fighting childhood obesity by:

  • Developing, implementing or enforcing policies aimed at facilitating the consumption of healthy diets and increasing physical activity, such as clear and simple front of packaging labelling;
  • Combatting social stigma associated with obesity; and
  • Ensuring access to care for persons who want help to maintain a healthy weight.

Meanwhile, the agency said individuals can do their part by becoming more physically active by moving more and reducing the consumption of salt, fats and sugar and increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables.