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Chairperson of the newly formed National Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Committee, Dr. Rosemarie Wright-Pascoe, says the group is committed to providing leadership in the fight against non-communicable illnesses in the country.

Speaking at the launch of Caribbean Wellness Day 2012, held at the Ministry of Health’s downtown Kingston offices, on September 3, Dr. Wright-Pascoe said the committee will aim to provide the overall strategic direction, leadership, expertise and guidance to the Ministry of Health, and all other stakeholders on matters related to the prevention and control of NCDs in Jamaica.

She noted that current statistics on the prevalence of such diseases among young people across the globe and in Jamaica are frightening.

Dr. Wright-Pascoe informed that data reveal that 11 per cent of children between the ages of 10 to 11 who live in food insecure communities are overweight, and the risk for being overweight is highest among girls.

"The prevalence of overweight in children increases yearly, as they get older. Overweight and obese children will have higher cholesterol and higher glucose levels, even as children,” she pointed out.

She further noted that "overweight or obese parents predict overweight or obese children, and as overweight and obesity is more than 60 per cent in our female population, you can imagine what this means for the future generation."

Dr. Wright-Pascoe also informed that overweight and obese mothers predict higher blood pressure in their offspring. "We clearly must stop the epidemic. It is therefore appropriate that we address the non-communicable diseases throughout the life cycle – the mother, the foetus, the baby, the child, the adult, the elderly person," she emphasised.

She lauded the effort of the Government, through the Ministries of Health and Education, in the implementation of the 'Health Promoting Schools Initiative', which is geared towards empowering schools to facilitate healthy choices and the development of healthy behaviour from a young age.

Dr. Wright-Pascoe said it is an important initiative, which should impact the lives of young Jamaicans in their formative years, to ensure that a culture of healthy living is developed and maintained.

"To focus on health promotion in the schools, including the promotion of physical education, to focus on offering healthy nutritious foods, and teaching personal health skills in our children, who will relay this information to their family members, can and will, stop overweight and obesity in our children," she said.

"Stopping overweight and obesity in our children will not only affect their immediate lives, but the lives of their children, and their children's children, and ultimately, the entire Jamaican community," Dr. Wright-Pascoe added.

The National Committee for NCDs in Jamaica was established by the Ministry of Health in December 2011.

It was formed in keeping with recommendations out of a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government meeting in Port of Spain on NCDs in 2007, and is comprised of representatives from all Ministries, several non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, academia and the private sector.

Caribbean Wellness Day 2012 will be observed on September 8, under the theme, "Healthy Schools make Healthy Communities that build Healthy Countries", and is being organised in partnership with the Ministries of Health and Education and the National Health Fund (NHF).