Government Sets Out To Reduce NCDs By 50 Per Cent

Eight out of 10 deaths in Barbados are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). As a result, Government has set a target of reducing new NCD cases by 50 per cent as part of its Mission Barbados Declaration.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Davidson Ishmael, said the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for NCD Control (2023-2030) reflects this urgency by providing a comprehensive framework consisting of eight priority areas, aimed at tackling the rising burden of NCDs.

He was addressing the opening of the National Nutrition Centre’s Nutrition Conference on Wednesday, at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.  It was held under the theme Good Nutrition: A Prescription for NCD Prevention and Control.

“More specifically, the strategic plan emphasises the reduction of risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy consumption of alcohol, poor nutrition, and sedentary lifestyles; through educational initiatives and policy interventions targeting communities, schools, and workplaces.

“The plan also highlights the importance of NCD self-management and improving healthcare-provider interactions, with a focus on empowering patients and caregivers. Additionally, childhood obesity prevention efforts are prioritised through educational campaigns and creating supportive environments, particularly within schools.  This healthier environment is centered on promoting appropriate levels of physical activity, front-of-package warning labels, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy products to children,” Mr. Ishmael stated.

He added it was imperative to involve persons living with NCDs in these efforts to ensure “inclusivity and responsiveness to their needs”.

Also speaking during the conference was Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Hedda Phillips-Boyce, who gave a progress report on the impact of the Barbados Schools’ Nutrition Policy (BNSP), almost one year after it was implemented.

She said while there have been some challenges, there have also been some successes.  One of the challenges, she explained, was getting some parents and teachers to model the positive behaviours outlined in the policy to set good examples for students.

Additionally, she said it was found that canteen operators lacked creativity when it came to providing healthier and tasty options for students. However, Mrs. Phillips-Boyce suggested that training would help in this area.

Another challenge she outlined was children buying unhealthy snacks from vendors outside of the school compound.  To this end, she called on the Ministry of Health and Wellness to implement a vendors’ policy to stop this practice, which was undermining the progress being made.

As far as the successes go, the Education Officer pointed out that 90 per cent of the school canteens at secondary schools have been monitored for compliance to the BSNP, while 71 per cent of secondary students, and 66 per cent of primary school children have been sensitised.

She added that they have been working with the School Meals Department to modify and standardise recipes so that they are compliant.  And she noted that, overall, the METVT had noticed an increase in the amount of water and non-sugar beverages being consumed by students.

Mrs. Phillips-Boyce called for manufacturers and marketers to be formally sensitised about the policy as well as for dedicated resources.

“The BSNP is important because we need this policy to guide us as to where to go and how to create a healthy school food environment.  We have implemented strategies; some of them are working; some of them need some work, but we need the resources to help us to ensure that our students have a healthy environment, so they can reach their full potential,” she emphasised.