(CNS): Health Services Authority statistics on children entering the school system show “some worrying trends”, according to Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is the health minister. In a statement to mark Caribbean Wellness Day on Saturday, which has kids at the heart of this year’s theme, he said that 16% of four- and five-year-olds were obese and another 21% were at risk of becoming overweight. Almost twice as many boys as girls were said to already be overweight but it was an even match for the group considered ‘at risk’ in the 2015 screening results.
McLaughlin said that data from the school population indicated that there are high levels of childhood obesity in Cayman, which is a predictor for the future development of chronic non-communicable diseases — the focus of Caribbean Wellness Day.
Given the fact that these diseases are already a major problem in Cayman, as they are across the Caribbean, McLaughlin, wearing his health minister hat, said the local Public Health Department continues to work with the Child Health Task Force, a private-public partnership to help schools develop and implement comprehensive health and wellness policies.
“The objective of this project is to create a supporting environment for health and wellness in the school setting, resulting in ripple effects outwards to the home and community at large,” the premier said, as he pointed to a number of forthcoming events to try and promote child health.
Various activities include educational and karate sessions in primary schools, a stamina competition for school-aged children, and a poster display on 18 September depicting the theme “Love that Body – Kids!” at participating churches across the islands. Children will be given information on ways to take care of their bodies and the various services offered to them at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
There will also be free health screenings, including height, weight and waist measurements, as well as blood pressure readings, and a healthy lifestyle display at the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes’ Day and Family Forum Saturday on 1 October.
“I urge everyone, young and old, to take their health seriously and to develop a healthy lifestyle to avoid non-communicable diseases, many of which, I emphasise, can be prevented by adopting a nutritious, balanced diet and including regular exercise as part of our daily routine,” McLaughlin stated