The issue of obesity continues to command the eclectic attention of local, regional and international researchers. The findings of the UWI, Health Economic Unit (HEU) evidence-based knowledge collaborative study with the Institute for Clinical Effectiveness for establishing sugar-sweetened beverage control policies suggest:
· excessive consumption of sugary beverages is associated with increases in diseases, deaths and rising healthcare costs.
· Utilising 2020 estimates, the model estimated that every year, 387 deaths in Trinidad and Tobago may be associated with the excessive consumption of sugary beverages and 9,000 years of healthy life are lost due to premature death and disability.
· Further, study estimates showed that approximately TT$156 million was spent in the public healthcare system to treat diseases associated with excessive consumption of sugary beverages.
· This was roughly 1.37 per cent of Trinidad and Tobago´s yearly investment in healthcare. Of this amount, approximately TT$13 million was estimated for the treatment of overweight and obesity (in childhood, adolescence and adulthood for both sexes).
· The majority, TT$143 million, was associated with the treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular and renal disease, musculoskeletal disorders, cancer and other conditions, which may be associated with the excessive consumption of sugary drinks. https://sta.uwi.edu/uwitoday/article10.asp
In observance of World Obesity Day (11th October 2018), CARPHA stated that Caribbean women are 3 times likely to be obese than men and also have higher rates of abdominal obesity. Obesity increases the risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Former president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, averred that Latin American and Caribbean countries need to invest more in sport and physical activity to create healthier and happier societies. According to the IDB, spending by governments in Latin American and the Caribbean on sport amounts to .1% of GDP excluding elite athletes funding.
The IDB report noted that although the region is noted for producing world-class elite athletes, the general population physical inactivity level is very exasperating especially when the population is disaggregated into age groups. For instance, between the ages 11 and 17, only 1 out of 10 adolescents are meeting the universal standard of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. In T&T, for the period 2007-11, School Health Survey reported for the age group 12-15 years, more persons were sedentary than physically active for 60 minutes.
The findings and concerns raised by the HEU report further reinforce the suggestion of CARPHA (2018) focusing on food and nutrition surveillance systems. Additionally, as this column has repeated from time to time almost ad nauseum, there is an urgent need to generate physical activity participation across the population especially among children who are currently spending long sedentary hours in online classes in front of electronic devices due to the COVID-19 pandemic control measures.
A strategic approach is required to not only sensitize but also get the population across age, gender, social class, ethnicity, disability, and religion involved in recreational physical activity. While it is important to have the support of organizational stakeholders- ministries such as health, sport, education, community development; sporting bodies and the business community- it is equally imperative that communities are allowed to speak about the various socio-economic and cultural issues that impact on their habitual engagement in physical activity. Such an approach will allow for the development of realistic policies that will have a greater chance of yielding returns as communities would have participated in the decision-making process that will affect their lives.