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Cayman Islands Government

Childhood Obesity Tackled

Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mark Scotland presents a cheque to Medical Director and Ministry Liaison to the Children's Health Task Force (CHTF) Pilot Project Dr. Sook Yin. The project aims to tackle childhood obesity.

Government is intensifying efforts to address the looming crisis of childhood obesity in the Cayman Islands.

Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mark Scotland, JP last Thursday (1 April) presented a cheque to the Children's Health Task Force (CHTF) Pilot Project. Medical Director and Ministry Liaison to the CHTF Project, Dr. Sook Yin accepted the cheque on behalf of the programme.

Describing the overweight problem among children as "a grave national concern," Mr. Scotland said it could impact the Islands' development by increasing health care costs and incapacitating the future workforce.

"Government is committed to being proactive in dealing with childhood obesity before it becomes an unmanageable national crisis here" he added.

"Health officials tell us that obesity and overweight are risk factors in a range of diseases. Many of these are chronic and costly to treat and residents' health also impacts national productivity, Mr. Scotland said.

Supplying additional details on the health threat, Dr. Yin noted that recent child obesity data from the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority is alarming. "Annual screening confirms that some 22 percent of school children are overweight and another 14.8 percent are at risk of becoming overweight."

She explained that in 1987, 18.8 percent of children aged between three and seven were already obese when entering the school system. However, that figure had risen to 45 percent by 2005.

"Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to be obese adults.

Given that obesity in adults is associated with increased risks of premature death, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and many other health problems, it is critical that we prevent obesity and overweight in childhood, before the onset of such chronic problems," said Dr. Yin.

She explained that the CHTF goal of developing a comprehensive and successful programme to promote and support healthy lifestyles for all children, both in and outside of school, is an integral part of addressing childhood obesity.

Beginning with a pilot programme at the George Hicks High School, CHTF aims to enhance healthier lifestyles by facilitating increased nutritional services, offering additional physical activity for students, and improving knowledge and skills of teachers, parents and students. The programme will eventually be replicated across schools.

(GIS)

For further information contact: Prudence Barnes