June 6, 2014
Malnutrition and obesity a double burden – Hamilton

This week, Vincentians were sensitized about the importance of healthy lifestyles. As part of Nutrition Awareness Week celebrations, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment hosted a Nutrition Symposium and Fair on Wednesday.

In welcome remarks, {{more}}Del Hamilton, director of the department of wellness, disease prevention and management, explained that the symposium was developed in response to people’s need for information and guidance on planning meals that are affordable.

Hamilton noted that the activity was not only to promote good nutrition, but also to reduce the double burden of bad nutrition.

“This activity is in accordance with the government’s policies on zero hunger, food and nutrition security, wellness, adolescent health and child nutrition,” she said.

“On one hand, there is the burden of hunger, energy and nutrient deficiencies and on the other hand there is obesity and risk of nutrition related chronic non communicable diseases. Poor nutrition of any type is a great impediment to human and social development. The existence of the double burden suggests that underweight and overweight are not opposing health concerns, but should be tackled in a holistic and integrated manner through programme intervention that are simultaneously able to address both.”

Additionally, Hamilton stressed that the double burden can only be corrected “by tackling the nutrition problem as a single public health concern,” through the implementation of policy and programme initiatives.

“Obesity in children has serious, immediate and long term health effects. Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore at greater risk of adult health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, cancers and stroke,” she said.

In his address, Minister of Health Clayton Burgin pointed out that often, persons describe plump children as being healthy and well fed.

However, he noted that in some cases, this can be a sign of obesity at a young age.

“It is critically important to assess the extent and address childhood obesity not only because of immediate and long term risk to health and survival but also potential risk of self esteem, learning ability, academic and athletic performance,” Burgin said.

“It has been reported that more than 60 per cent of obese children have one or more cardiovascular risk factors. The situation worsens when we know that there is a 50 per cent chance of a child becoming an obese adult if they are already obese at six years of age. And the probability of adult obesity increases to 70 per cent if the child is an obese adolescent.”

For these reasons, the Health Minister encouraged persons to change their eating habits to ones that will foster a healthy life.

These include eating more fruits and vegetables; reducing fats, oils and sugars; using steaming, boiling and baking instead of frying, stewing and barbecuing; using less salt, drinking lots of water, using alcohol sparingly and following the dietary guidelines from the Nutrition Unit chart.

Presentations at the symposium came from representatives of a variety of entities and organizations.

Head of Hospitality and Agriculture Hazel Roberts, persons from the Division of Technical and Vocational Education at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, senior nutritionist Joyce Burgin and the Nutrition Unit from the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment were among those making presentations.

A number of booths from various entities were also set up to feature a variety of nutritional information for persons. These entities included the Nutrition Unit, the Rural Transformation Unit, the Sports Department, the Seventh-Day Adventist Mission, the SVG Hospitality Programme, SVG Bureau of Standards and VincyFresh.(BK)