New project hopes to fight childhood obesity

| 09/04/2010

(CNS): Almost a quarter of Cayman’s school children are overweight, according to statistics from the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, but government hopes to fight the problem by supporting the Children’s Health Task Force (CHTF) Pilot Project. Medical Director and Ministry Liaison Dr Sook Yin said the aim was to develop a comprehensive and successful programme to promote and support healthy lifestyles for all children, in and out of school. The health minister described the weight problem among children as “a grave national concern” that could impact the Islands’ development by increasing health care costs and incapacitating the future workforce.

Dr Yin described the recent child obesity data from the HSA as 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 said, explaining 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,” the doctor added. “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.”
Accepting a cheque from Health Minister Mark Scotland forthe pilot health project, Dr Yin said CHTF would begin at the George Hicks High School but would eventually be replicated across schools. The project will enhance healthier lifestyles by facilitating increased nutritional services, offering additional physical activity for students, and improving knowledge and skills of teachers, parents and students.
“Government is committed to being proactive in dealing with childhood obesity before it becomes an unmanageable national crisis here,” Scotland said. “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.”
This comes in the wake of news from the World Helath Organisaiton that teenagers in the Cayman Islands are among the most sendentry youngsters in the world. In a study of some 70,000 teenagers in 34 countries, WHO found that 58 percent of boys and 64 percent of girls in Cayman said they spent three hours a day in sedentary activities.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Health

About the Author ()

Comments (15)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Donna Mitchell says:

    I was the chubby girl on middle-school and became one of the obese in high school.  It’s easy to say ‘eat and apple’ instead of a chocolate bar, but unless you have walked in the footsteps of obesity, you must understand that minds must change as must behaviour.  This has been my field of passion and work all my lifetime in Cayman, and ask that my experience be used to help these kids.  I applaud Dr. Yin and the medical people to push this along;I have been polling the government issue as have other people for years about this.  This is not a new issue…and it’s global.  No sense blaming anybody, it’s time to find solutions.I do hope and ask that the work by Dr. Yin and Government be shared out amongst people in this field who have had a real-life experience with overweight instead of  the usual few fitness/nutrition experts who seem to get awarded contracts.  There are others of us with just as much to offer in areas of behaviour modification, developing self-esteem and weight loss.  I should love to be a part of this. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    How often do you see thin kids with fat parents?


    Not very.

  3. Common Sense says:

     Did anyone see the Observer newspaper article about this problem a few weeks back?  The suppliers of school lunches sounded like big fat whiners!!! (big restaurant firms and successful catering companies, what a "crock"!).  They are too greedy to enforce what is right.  Too bad if parents complain that their children cannot get their 1000 calorie sugary fruit punch drinks, too bad if no-nut rules lead to "no junk" allowed RULES!!!  

    Parents need to learn how to make a healthy lunch for thier children starting at a very young age.  If you never introduce white bread, sugars, and high sodium foods, your kids will NOT miss it.  I pulled my daughter out well known child day care when I found the school feeding them "Dominos" pizza every Fridays!!!  

    Don’t rely on your "helpers" to feed your kids after school and their dinners, they will take the easy short.  Make your dishes healthy and freeze them ahead of time. DO leave instructions with your helpers (most of us are working moms) to send the kids outdoors for at least an hour a day. Jamie Oliver, come SAVE US!!!

  4. Tom McCallum says:

    To me a key point in Cayman is that there is very little in the way of after school sports at the schools themselves,most sports are done outside of school management, meaning that parents have to be super-organised to arrange to get kids to and from such activities within the working day.

    I grew up in Scotland, where teachers always arranged after school clubs and sport as part of their role. However, just after I left school, they went on a multi-year work dispute against having to do these extra hours, meaning that a generation of kids lost out on these opportunities to be active. This was over twenty years ago, but the knock on effect of this are still seen in that country.

    I’d like to see a much greater degree of emphasis put on healthy physical activity (whether in competitive sports or not) through the education system. This addition of extra hours to teachers responsibilities may meet with some resistance, but as a community we need to therefore make an effort to recognise those who willingly go above and beyond to help forge future adults who are not just academically lifted, but also improved in terms of healthy lifestyles and fitness.

    (On this point, kudos to Brendan Touhey.. a school PE leader who sticks to his guns and insists that high school children take a "beep" fitness test each term. Those who do well gain motivation to continue to work had and respect from their peers. Those who don’t are gently encouraged to find the motivation to improve, and the empirical nature of this leaves their parents in no doubt as to the physical condition of their children). 

    We are short of facilities within and around the school system (the lack of sufficient swimming pool facilities in Cayman means that our children cannot be "waterproofed" as mandated in the national curriculum, as an example).

    However, facilities or not, there is nothing more powerful in motivating children to exercise / compete than passionately driven adults (whether teachers, parents or other volunteers). 

    Ask any of our past and present elite Caymanian athletes, and I would bet that all of them will name at least one of their teachers as being an inspirational force, as well as other local coaches / volunteers.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree – kudos to Brendan Touhey for his fitness efforts.  He also lives the fit life as does his whole family, who are all runners and cyclists, and both of his young sons are actively involved in fitness programs.  A great example for the youth of these Islands Brendan!

  5. Anonymous says:

     The TV/Playstation OR exercise choice is misleading.  This issue, like most regarding human behavior, is much more complex.  We have a child that trains vigorously and competes in track meets, yet also spends considerable time on Facebook/MSM/Playstation/TV…

    The real goal is to achieve a better balance between sedentary time, diet and activity.  It does not require any extremes like “no TV’, “never again a Burger King meal, or “you have to train like an Olympic athlete” – just find a better balance.

    • Common Sense says:

       Let them WALK I say!!!!   Hey folks, it is time to $ave $$$ and kill two birds with one stone:  Make children WALK the 20 minutes to get their school bus.  I am tired of seeing very overweight children dropped off literally footsteps to their door.  This lazy approach wastes a lot of money for fuel, causes daily traffic congestion, and worst of all, is helping to make these kids FAT.  Every child should meet at an assigned bus stop.  If a child has to walk more than 20 minutes to get to his bus stop, then exceptions can be made.  20 minutes getting to school and 20 minutes walking home….???  It is a start!  Hello Govt. Education ???  got the picture?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Before we became a fast food nation, 1980’s,  you never really saw many obese children. 

    Why don’t we start educating adults and children with information about what’s really in that fast food. And help them to understand that these fast food restaurants don’t put the soda machines out front for you to get free refills because they like you …  they put the soda machines out there because the carbon in the soda stretches your stomach.  

    So the more soda you drink… the more food you can eat… the more money they make.

    • Anonymous says:

      no fast food chains in the brac and the childhood obesity problem is just the same…… time to look at the real problems…. how about caymanian parenting????

      • Anonymous says:

        No food chains on the Brac, but every flight is loaded with burger king, kentucky etc.  Plus there are loads of local pizza and burger joints around the island.  The kids rarely do anything besides eat junk, drink soads and play video games.  They are encouraged by the parents who are also fat and practise the same eating habits.  The parents will go as far as to give their children sick notes saying they can’t participate in PE, XXXXXX.

        It is up to the parents to help these children in their most crucial development stage, but it’s no problem now since they can wait around until they are 30 or 40 and government will pay for their gastic bypass or lap band. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    There should be no excuse for children in Cayman to be fat we have so much more than other countries in terms of sporting facilities and just plain good weather, sea, sand and sun. Now there is a community park in every district, lots more than when I was growing up and I was as skinny as a tooth pick.  Then again there were no fast food outlets, less TV, more playing outdoors, much more physical activities and above all more concerned parents.  Then again parents have to work 3 jobs to be able to provide the latest Blackberry phones, (Iphones now) Laptops, Ipods, PSP-300, Xbox and the latest gadgets for their 10 year olds (forgot to mention the latest clothing styles) no wonder the poor children are being raised by Burger King, Wendy’s and the TV.

    This is the sad reality of what’s happening in the New Cayman.




  8. Anonymous says:

    It is sad to see the stats like this.

    I live in Cayman Islands and always say that I am blessed to be here. I wish the parents of such kids WAKE UP and take responsibility of raising healthy children.

    There must be emphasis on discouraging kids spending time on video games and in front of the TV. Parents can device reward techniques for positive outcomes in terms of weight loss, lesser time spent on sedentary activities etc.

    Home nutrition also needs to be addressed and the lesser the students have money to buy food from BK, KFC and Wendy’s the better off they will be. Eating lot of fresh vegetables and sea food must be encouraged as opposed to meat, french fires and fat.

    I am glad that there is increasing awareness of this problem, which can turn up to be a epidemic.

    I wish more Caymanian children looked back at their wonderful tradition of healthy living and healthy eating.

    God bless Cayman


  9. Anonymous says:

    "Almost a quarter of Cayman’s school children are overweight, according to statistics from the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority" – I think it is actually much higher than that. Look around.

    This is a good place to start. Remove vending machines, soda machines, change the menus at lunch, have mandatory phys-ed and mandatory after school sports. But then Wendys and Burger King are still right next door.

    Parents are the primary concern. I see skinny little kids with obese parents and sure enough a few years later those kids are no longer skinny.

    Educating and motivating parents to change their lives (and those of their kids) is what is going to be the most difficult hurdle.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is nobody to blame on this world everybody is different and entitle to do what is best for anyone, I’m a mother I do havea child I love myself ifyou proud to carry 350 pounds in top of you fine godhead don’t sit down and judge people for their mistake

      • Anonymous says:

         This is not a question of judgement and it is unfortunate that many people see it that way. If you truly love yourself and your children you will do everything you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle, give them the best nutrition and set a good example by exercising regularly. There is lots of room for individual differences in terms of how much weight you carry and how you look but if you are truly carrying around 350 lb. and do not have a chronic disease or genetic disorder, then I would suggest that you need to make some changes to your diet and level of activity. You don’t have to cut out all sugars and carbohydrates and snacks, and you don’t have to run 10 miles a day or work out like an athlete. A sensible balanced diet and a regular brisk walk is often enough to make a huge difference. But if you simply give up and say we’re all different and I’m always going to be this way, then your child will probably do the same and it may end up shortening both your lives by a significant amount, and the quality of your lives will probably not be as good as it could be.