Tackling Childhood Obesity in the Carribbean; The Youth Perspective
Author: Pierre K. Cooke Junior,
Healthy Carribean Coaltion (HCC) Youth Ambassador
It is always inspiring to hear of forums aimed at chartering sustainable futures for children and youth. It is even more inspiring and motivating when young people are invited to be a part of the process.
Therefore, anyone can imagine how excited I was to be invited to Healthy Caribbean Coalition's meeting ’ACCELERATING NUTRITION POLICIES IN THE CARIBBEAN: Creating Supportive Environments for Healthy Children’ held on the 17th & 18th of September, 2019.
It was a thought-provoking and critical thinking space filled with some of the brightest and passionate minds of the Caribbean who are fighting to create healthier environments for our children and youth so we can live lives free of childhood obesity and other NCD's.
The two days that I was engaged revealed many things to me that caused me to both reflect and react to the issues we face. The presenters for the two days spoke at lengths about what they were planning to do to address the issues and what was already being done. There were case examples from Canada and even Latin America who seemed to be champions in this area. Their policies were effective and their work was extensive. Caribbean examples were also presented with Jamaica identified as a leader in the fight against childhood obesity.
Now, I can go on for a while about the information and statistics each presentation provided and how big the issues were in their countries. However, if there is one thing I took away and noted is that in the countries where the efforts to mitigate the challenges to reducing childhood obesity were successful, occurred in countries who had a strong 'whole of society' commitment to tackling the problem. These countries like Chile had the support of their people and whilst some did not have major approval from governments, it was the voice of the people that carried the message beyond what any single organisation could have done.
What that means to me, is that we all have a part to play in saving our children. If we all recognize and appreciate that children and youth are the craftsmen of our future, we would invest more time and interest in their well-being. It scares me that we are treated as being so indispensable that our lives and expanding waste lines and heightened medical complications are of little to no concern to the general public, even with all the information out there on what causes these issues.
Youth groups, Non-governmental organisations, faith groups and even schools all have a duty to protect their nation's children. Many know well and preach "It takes a village to raise a child" but when that village has been causing issues we see with our children, it is time for that village to go back to the drawing board with that same teamwork and community spirit to see where and how they can change their techniques to provide healthier and enabling environments for their children to be their best.
I sat in that room for those two days and shared my views, opinions and concerns. I also listened closely and watched with appreciation the dedication of all those present to ensure they do all they can to ensure that myself and every other young person within their individual societies could be afforded the highest quality of life, and flourish to our full potentials without worrying about health complications.