Promote Healthy Choices in the Home to Reduce Diabetes in Children – CMO


Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, is encouraging parents to promote healthier lifestyles choices in the home, including proper diet and regular exercise.
These healthy practices, she noted, will reduce the risk of obesity in children, which is a primary risk factor for developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
“The prevalence of unhealthy eating and inactivity severely comprises the health and well-being of our young people,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester stated during the media launch of the ‘Life of a Child’ programme on March 24 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
“Parents are encouraged to ensure that their children eat a healthy diet by reducing sugar, fat and salt content and engage in physical activities 30 minutes per day. All these measures can help to reduce our current catastrophic medical care expenditure,” she noted.
The programme, which is a partnership between the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica (DAJ), will provide insulin, syringes and glucose monitoring devices to centres, which cater to children living with Type 1 diabetes. Approximately 200 of the 1,300 children across the island with the disease will benefit from the initiative.
A 2007 Youth Risk and Resiliency Behaviour Survey revealed that two per cent of Jamaican children age 15 to 19 years, have diabetes. The survey also indicated that 12 per cent of children zero to 15 years were obese or overweight; 25 per cent of 15 to 19-year olds were obese or overweight; 98 per cent of children 10 to 15 years old consumed soft drinks within a usual week; and 55 per cent of 15 to 19-year olds prepare meat by frying.
According to Dr. Campbell Forrester, diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in the island, adding that the direct cost of the disease to the economy is approximately US$170 million.
She said that the Ministry of Health is committed to supporting children living with diabetes and several activities over the years have been launched in collaboration with other organisations to combat the growing trend of diabetes and obesity in children.
Commending the DAJ and the IDF for undertaking the ‘Life of a Child’ programme, the CMO stated that the initiative will save the government some US$1 million. “A partnership like this is very essential considering the major benefits that will be reaped. This US$1 million saved can now be injected in other areas of health care that need urgent attention,” she pointed out.
“We are truly happy for this programme, which shows a commitment to help improve the quality of life of each child inflicted with diabetes knowing that it will stay with them throughout their entire life span,” she added.
Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes) results when the pancreas loses its ability to make the hormone insulin. In the condition, which only occurs in children, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which is needed to maintain regular blood sugar levels.
Children, who are not treated for the disease, develop recurrent illnesses and complications such as blindness and kidney failure in young adulthood.

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