Understanding the Situation

There has been an exponential rise in obesity and diet-related non-communicable disease rates (NCDs) in the Caribbean over the last five decades. More than 60% of Caribbean adults are overweight or obese; more alarmingly, between 20-35% of adolescents are overweight or obese. Children who are overweight are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese in adulthood, and have much greater life-time physical and mental health problems. Risk factors for hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have already started to emerge in Caribbean children. More than half the adult population in some CMS suffers from metabolic syndrome – the presence of at least three of the four major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes: raised blood pressure, insulin resistance, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Obesity is estimated to shorten lifespan by nine years, and the last nine years on average will be of poor quality.

Dietary habits in the Caribbean have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. There has been a shift away from indigenous staples, locally grown fruits, vegetables, legumes, and limited animal-source foods towards more energy- dense diets, high in processed foods and beverages, added sugars, fats/oils and sodium, and animal-source foods. Unhealthy diets are a leading contributor to NCDs in the Caribbean. Current diets in the region exceed maximum recommended intakes for salt, sugar, total energy, and energy from fat, and fall far below for fruit and vegetable intakes. The ‘obesogenicity’ of modern, daily living environments, i.e., ‘the sum of influences that the surroundings, opportunities, or conditions of life have on promoting obesity in individuals or populations’ is widely acknowledged to be fueling the epidemics of obesity and diet-related NCDs.

There is growing international consensus around a set of high-priority, feasible, and cost-effective legislative, regulatory, and policy actions for promoting healthy diets and reducing the burden of obesity and diet-related NCDs. CARPHA has developed a 6-point policy package for Healthier Food Environments and Food Security to address childhood obesity. The elements of the plan include:

  • Mandatory Nutritional Labelling of processed foods
  • Nutrition standards and guidelines for schools and other institutions
  • Reduce marketing of junk food to children
  • Reduce fat, salt, sugar in manufactured food
  • Trade and fiscal policies
  • Food chain incentives to increase fruit and vegetable consumption

Where will your money go:

Funds donated to the CARPHA Foundation, will assist in the implementation of the 6-point policy package.