Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, says the Government is targeting a significant reduction in the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through policies promoting healthier lifestyles and measures to mitigate their effects on the population.
She gave this assurance while addressing a panel discussion on childhood obesity at a CARICOM Roundtable Forum at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 22.
Senator Johnson Smith said childhood obesity remains a major concern for the Government, noting data from the 2010 Global School Survey which showed that approximately 27.7 per cent of adolescents in Jamaica, aged 13 to 15, were either overweight or obese.
She said the Government, in response, has maintained a five-year multi-sectoral National Strategic and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs in Jamaica, which was initiated in 2013.
Senator Johnson Smith assured that the Administration was committed to strengthening the Plan, pointing out that this will further enhance its work to reduce the risks of NCDs.
The Minister said in keeping with its international obligations, the Government has also taken steps to integrate the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on NCDs into the Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan, noting that the SDGs include guidance on combating priority health concerns such as obesity.
She further told delegates that the Administration has sought to enhance its endeavours by including a 2016 to 2020 sub-operational plan in the Vision 2030 Jamaica Plan, which is dedicated to the prevention and control of obesity in children and adolescents.
The Minister pointed out that a National Food Industry Taskforce was also established in March 2017 to focus on product reformulation, food labelling and marketing among other areas. She further advised that food-based dietary guidelines were established to complement the Taskforce’s work.
Senator Johnson Smith disclosed that the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information also implemented the Healthy Youth for Positive Energy (H.Y.P.E.) initiative.
Additionally, she said the Government last week announced that schools would be mandated to undertake physical activity and exercise programmes for grades seven to thirteen students, with programmes for promoting good health and healthy lifestyles in early childhood institutions.
The Minister further said that in support of this development, a nutrition policy stipulating the requisite caloric content for meals served in school canteens is on track for completion by year-end.
Senator Johnson Smith emphasized, however, that there were still major impediments to the effective implementation of global commitments such as “pushbacks” from industries; slow roll out of a regulatory framework to address risk factors; and lack of resources, particularly due to inadequate official development assistance.
She said Jamaica remained steadfast in its position on the need for the UN’s redoubling of efforts to support effective actions to arrest the NCD epidemic.
As such, Senator Johnson Smith is encouraging greater cooperation between Jamaica and its bilateral partners for the greater good of future generations of citizens and, by extension, the wider global community.