Cayman unfit, overweight and at high risk

| 13/05/2013

300512-obese (266x300).jpg(CNS): According to a survey of the state of the country’s health in relation to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) Cayman is at high risk. Most people are not eating the right foods, smoke and drink too much and are not getting enough exercise. Among both sexes more than a third (36.6%) were found to be obese and over 70% overweight. Along with high blood pressure, many people are also already suffering or at risk of heart disease or diabetes. In the first survey of its kind well over 40% of the people who were surveyed faced at least three of the five standard risk factors of smoking, eating less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, low level of activity, overweight or raised blood pressure.

The results of the survey finally confirm in statistics the concerns that health officials have had for some time that non-communicable diseases as a result of lifestyle choices have reached epidemic proportions in Cayman.

Armed with the facts and figures, government will be focused on what it can do to lower the risk factors and in turn cut its growing health bill, which currently accounts for 20% of government s entire annual health budget.

Almost 84% of people eating less than five servings of fruit or vegetables each day, approximately 15% of the population smokes tobacco regularly and a quarter of the men surveyed admitted they had  engaged in heavy episodic drinking in the past 30 days. The survey also found that slightly less than half of respondents had high levels of physical activity, with over 61% of men reporting being active while less than 34% of women reported high activity levels. More than one thirdof all respondents reported low levels of physical activity.

With an average waist size of over a yard and many people suffering with obesity, Caymanians are struggling with serious weight issues.

The health minister said that the STEPS survey represented a major step towards gathering data for the government, policy makers, health insurance providers and other stakeholders to inform a national strategy for the prevention, control and management of NCDs.

Speaking at last Thursday’s press briefing, Mark Scotland pointed out that NCDs have an impact on the workforce as well as government’s growing health care costs, as he pointed to a pressing need for more education about the need for healthier lifestyles and described the situation as “grave”.

He said the survey has provided valuable information and evidence on risk factors of chronic diseases, presenting the community with an urgent need to target specific groups in the population with health education and health promotion for the prevention and control of NCDs.

Some interventions that are cost effective to help to reduce risk factors for NCDs include enforcing no smoking policies in all public spaces by amending the tobacco legislation; development of programmes to support smoking cessation; promoting and increasing media messages about diet and physical activity; create enabling environments that will promote and increase physical activity; encourage the participation of employees through their employer in wellness programmes; promote annual screenings through the media/public health; and encourage persons to get to know their numbers.

Among government’s goals to help address the crisis is reducing the tariffs on the importation of fruit and vegetables, increasing the level and duration of physical activity in all schools at an early age and conduct awareness campaigns.

See full survey below.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As someone born and raised in Cayman, this doesn't surprise me at all. The root of this problem needs to be addressed in our schools. Sodas, drinks full of sugar and unhealthy snacks and school lunches seem to be quite common. I went to St. Ignatius, and yes, at one point they removed the sodas from being sold, but replaced them with fruit juices from concentrate with just as much sugar! It is not necessarily inactivity as the largest contributor to obesity on our island, but portion control. Just look even at our heritage days – I askedfor a side salad from a vendor and the only 'salad' they had was either potato salad or macaroni salad. These are not salads! Teach the youth of the island to make better choices, eat more fruits and vegetables and make small cuts to the amout of processed food consumed on a weekly basis – little by little, lifestyle changes can be made. A 'brown bag' system can be instituted in the schools where one day a week children must bring a healthier lunch from home rather than buying from the school canteen, or have only vegetarian options served at schools one day a week. Even replacing one drink per day with water is a step in the right direction. This is a problem we have to start to address in a serious way or our island will ultimately suffer. 

  2. Harrow says:

    We all should try to have our meals cooked at home, eat fruits and vegetables drink plenty water  and leave out sodas. Get off our buts and walk half an hour at least 3 times per week. Many people don't cook at home and the increasing trend is that now-a-days young ladies have not learned to prepare a propper measl at home. Instead they go to restaurants and fast food outlets as such as mcdonald, wendy, burger king, pizza hut most of the time. Eat smaller servigs because its costing us in the wallet and we have to discard new clothes after a few wear. Look don't be talking about "I am big and beautiful", loose the weight!!!!!! because you are also unhealthy too

    Wise up and STOP BLAMING THE MINISTER AND GOVERNMENT FOR WHAT YOU CAN DO OR TOO DAMN LAZY TO DO!!!!!. You want to live to 80? Get off you buts and help yourself. In the long run you will be the beneficiaiary.

    There are  few socities that blame Government for everything that is wrong:

    Children discipline



    education including where chilren lack interest


    discipline of children

    taking care of the elderly

    stray animal

    overweight because of lack of exercise and improper eating habits

    While Government can regulate some areas of these when it boil down to it we must take responsibility for ourselves. we must get real

  3. Anonymous says:

    Some people have themselves to blame, but the majority, no doubt, can not afford to live healthy.

    Healthy living is expensive.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nonsense.  It is about quantity too.  Matter cannot be created nor destroyed.  You don't get fat if you don't eat too much.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Being overweight or obese is not something that happens overnight. Like other vices it is a manifestation of some other underlying issue that has gone unaddressed. I am surprised that in this day and age there are people who feel it is appropriate to make fun of people because they are overweight. The release of the results should serve as a reality check for everyone. It was for me. I participated in the survey and after the tests I realized that I was not taking my wight gain seriously and that I was suffering from ill health. After the survey made a conscious decision to cook all of my meals instead of eating out because by eating out I could not control the quality of the food I consumed. I also turned off the tv which I did find caused me to be more sedentary. I sought put the help of a health coach and also did a lot of introspection as to why over the last 13 years I could not stop putting on weight. I realized that I had to put behind me some of my past insecurities and realized that work stress also had caused me to make poor food choices. Now that I know what my triggers are I am very mindful of them and prepare for them. I also realize that I have to eat salad every day (healthy salads) And drink lots of Water. It also helps to keep a food journal when you are trying to adopt good food habits. I encourage all persons struggling with weight to give yourself the gift of health. It is the best thing you can do for your self and is a great example for their kids and is the best retirement plan. Weight loss is a personal journey and I encourage everyone who struggles with weight to continue fighting to get it off in a healthy way. Since I made my commitment I lost 40 lbs and have a few more pounds to go. Do not listen to insensitive and mean people, they have their own issues that they have not dealt with.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Obesity is primarily linked to take out food. You know why? It’s cheaper to eat out than to buy those seem ingredients at the grocery store. Sad but true. Just look at inner city America. They are surrounded by fast food chains and restaurants. And it doesn’t help either that the school kids are only obligated to exercise once a week. We should increase their exercise regime to daily periods of physical activities. Jamming them in a classroom all day isn’t the most productive way to inspire healthy lifestyles.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is not the cost that is the issue.  Take out food is preferred if you are lazy.  Lazy and fat they go together like peaches and full fat cream.

    • Anonymous says:

      and let's not put all the responsibility on the schools.  How about we stop letting them park in front of the tv and electronics and drag them out for a bike ride, scooter, football, run, swim, etc etc.  Good bonding, good exercise, good example, good parenting.  Don't let the gadgets raise your kids.  And don't give me that wii gives them exercise – it simply isn't the same.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks to your fine governance and excessive waste, all that the average, working class, people of this Island can afford to buy are low cost items like Ramen noodles and rice.   Neither of which are great for sugar levels.  How 'bout you take your head out of your backside, and do something useful for the people of this Island instead of wasting our money collecting statistics to point out the obvious?

    • Anonymous says:

      I knew the minute I read the headline that someone was going to blame this on the government. Wow! How did we get to a point where we no longer take responsibility for anything we do, now we even blame Government for what we put in our mouth!

      I hear all the time that people can't afford to buy "healthy food" however, they still find the money to buy liquor and cigarettes, pay the monthly lease for their SUV or get their nails done on a regular basis. I guess it is all about priorities, but I guess in Cayman, we just scream for Government to fix it.

      We live in a country where outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, tennis, biking etc is possible all year round. Compare this with countries who suffer from excessive rain, snow and cold for almost 6 months out of the year. Get of your ass and exercise!

      I can guarantee you, that even if the Government would provide low cost healthy food for everyone, there would still be plenty people overweight and obese cause people just have the wrong attitude altogether!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well, Mark, the present insurance scheme is not designed to assist patients with preventative care, nor address those already facing the above mentioned illnesses.  The new scheme is little more than a smoke screen and does not financially benefit enrollees in any substantive way. Nor does it improve care for those in the greatest need.  You want to do something useful in combatting obesity and diabetes? Do you really, truly?? Or is this just more election BS?   Well, if you really do, here are a few suggestions.  #1 Provide free nutrional counciling.  You would be surprised at how misinformed most patients are, and that they must pay for this service from their own pockets, so they do not avail of said services.  #2 Provide free diabetic testing and screening.  With only minimal dollars for OP care it is difficult for patients to pay out of pocket for additional testing, if we could identify those at risk maybe we could help some before they are full blown.  #3 Provide ongoing monitoring at little or no cost for diabetic patients.  Do you, Mark, with you fab heatlh care, know that diabetic patients must pay for monthly OP visits out of their own pockets in order to have their Rx"s refilled?  Do you know what $100 office visit means to someone who earns $800 a month?  Do you have any clue??? is it any surprise that these patients get worse due to lack of affordable care?

  8. Just Commentin' says:

    Another way to look at it is that we are establishing a "New Normal" roun' yah! Meaning that once the new order is in place then 30% of the population will be considered to be abnormally underweight; 84% will be eating a normal diet and 60% of people will be found to live a lifestyle that leads to abnormally high longevity. Gee, if over 70% are overweight and over half report indulging in a "high level" of physical activity then we must really be a country of food-scarfing gluttons, eh?

    Regarding smoking: Why is it that everybody picks on smoking and calling for bans is so popular?  It is because it is an easy target and such bans make it look like effective things are being done. Is it not also a good idea to prohibit gluttony in public places and ban junk food and less than healthy food in all public spaces, public buildings and public functions? Sounds reasonable to me.

    Have you ever perused  the menu at the government staff cafeteria? Have you ever taken a look at the fare and the hefty plates gobbled down at the MLA Prayer Breakfasts?  Speaking about artery clogging fat-inducing high-glycemic index menus: Have you ever taken notice of the food at Government functions and fetes? (Including functions held under the auspices of the Health Services Authority!)  I have seen some pretty deadly stuff on the tables at HSA functions. Not to mention some of the junk we offer our government school students. I might begin to believe the government is paying more than lip service to promoting a healthy lifestyle when I see the likes of fried fish, cheese pizza and french fries removed from the school menu and several horridly unhealthy cooking oils banned in the recipes used. Why is there a bar budget included in certain government and statutory authority parties?

    To cap it all off, has anyone noticed some of the so-called "refreshments" being served at the Health Minister's political party rallies?  Not exactly health food, huh?

    OK Mr. So-called "Health" Minister: the ball is in your court now!  Prove to me that you are not just blowing more politician hot air: "Physician heal thyself"!  Cast out the beam in your own eye before considering the moat in the eye of others.  Make your government clean up its act and then you may have some credibility with me. Until then… Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh…right, right, right…blah, blah, blah…yeah, yeah, yeah..yada…yada…yada…  Talk to the hand!

  9. VirginiaLee says:

    This is sad news for Cayman but there is a bright gleam of hope: A Complete Lifestyle Change. Healthful lifestyle changes can affect the majority of health problems faced in Western society. 

    1. Take control of your own health destiny

    When my family and I made the commitment to change to a true vegetarian diet and more active lifestyle we experienced the reversal of hypoglycemia, acute sinusitis, asthma, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and general excessive weight.


    2.Turn the TV off

    The first thing we did was turn off the TV. This immediately provided us with time to produce more healthful, appetizing dishes in the kitchen and to spend quality time together as a family in exercise and play out-of doors.


    3. Educate our children

    Educate, educate, educate. Remember the saying, "If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime!" My children although only two and six years old at the time were brought into the kitchen with us and we made it a family affair. We started by adjusting, or in some cases re-making, our favourite foods. As I studied more on complete nutrition for a vegetarian diet I shared what I was learning with my children as they were able to understand. 


    4. Grow your own food

    We are now living in the US and each year we grow our own organic produce in a 20X60ft garden. There is boundless resources on-line for organic gardening indoors, gardening in small spaces for the beginning gardener. We grow so much in that space that we are able to share and still eat from it for 75% of the year through preservation: canning, dehydration and freezing. What we don't grow we try to support local farmers or health co-ops who grow sustainably.


    We made the change 9+ years now and have not been to a doctor's office to seek any treatment or taken drug medication for any reason since. We believe this is directly related to our choice to experience HEALTH.

    Finally, as for the argument that to live healthy and eat right is too expensive—-PLEASE don't buy into that. Our food bills in the US and when we lived in Cayman were comparable to average hard-working family with modest paychecks the largest difference is we didn't have huge health costs……just think of the grocery bills as CHEAP health insurance….and more importantly, of the happier, fuller and less sick and tired life you will lead.

  10. Anonymous says:

    To say that most people who are overweight are not eating the right foods is probably true, however, to say that it is also because they drink and smoke too much is absolutely an unfounded and hateful statement. I am among the very large polulation of obese people on this island and the facts are, I try to eat as healthy as I can possibly afford, I don't smoke and never drank alcohol in my entire life and I know many overweight people who can say the same thing. I suppose the aim of the writer of this article means well in trying to bring awareness of the health risks that is are associated withobesity.  Therefore, I emplore them to take a second look at the cost of food in the Cayman Islands. It is ridiculous to say the least. I have conducted my own survey in that I attempted to buy all healthy foods, snacks and all the fruits my family eat and more for one month and the cost to feed myself, husband, two children and our helper nearly tripled the usual cost. In other words,  our normal grocery bill for one month which included laundry and cleaning supplies were about $800-$1,000. One trip to Kirks in my endeavour to eat healthy was over $400 and that did not include laundry and cleaning supplies and that was for one week groceries and before the week ended I spent another $200. At the end of the month I realized that I had spent over $2,500 on just groceries. CAYMANIANS CANNOT AFFORD TO EAT PROPERLY AND ARE TOO STRESSED WORKING AND DOING ALL THAT CAN BE DONE TO SURVIVE IN THIS PLACE THAT IS IS HARD TO EXERCISE, RELAX AND ENJOY LIFE WHICH CAN BE LINKED TO HEALTHY WEIGHT AND LESS NON-COMMUNICABLE DECEASES!

    • Anonymous says:

      Nonsense.  You eat too much and too much of what you eat is fat and sugar.  Simple.  See really poor countries?  The people there are not fat.  Stop making excuses and get off your self-admittedly large behind and take responsibility.

    • Fitness freak says:

      All I hear is blah blah blah I eat to much and don't exercise!

      If you are overweight it is becasue you are consuming a calorie surplus, meaning that you eat more calories than you burn off. If you consume less calories than you burn off you will lose weight. IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        But fat people want to blame someone for their gluttony and laziness.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is the popular theory, but it's not that simple actually.  Diet is more important than exercise and some foods are easier for your body to convert into glucose than others.  The bioavailibility of the calories consumed and the timing of when in the day they are ingested matters.  If you eat a high calorie snack just before bed, your body is not going to need to work to convert those new calories into immediate energy, nor will your body require those calories to build lean muscle tissue, so the calories get stored as fat.  Late night snackers tend to struggle with their weight – even if their total daily calorie intake is the same or lower than peers at a similar activity level.  Meal skippers – esp breakfast skippers also have problems as they tend to overload at lunch or dinner and those surplus calories are deposited as energy lay-away in the form of visceral fat.  

        • Fitness freak says:

          What a pile of BS! It doesn't matter what time of the day you eat and doesn't matter what foods you eat the FACT is if you're operating in a calorie deficit you will lose weight.

        • Anonymous says:

          yes, there are a lot of theories all out there. Trust me, I know lots of them cause I read and tried to live them. At the end, it is all very simple equation of calorie input vs burning it off.

          The real problem is that even the people who think they eat healthy (I used to be one of them) don't realize that they often overeat on the "healthy" stuff. Trust me, it took me 23 years to come to the conclusion that it is really all about what you put in your mouth!

    • Anonymous says:

      I don't understand why families with money and weight  problems still keep a helper. It seems obvious.

    • Anonymous says:

      You may not drink liquor, but perhaps you are drinking sodas and juices?

      I also used to be overweight and have many overweight and obese family members and I can guarantee you, just how I was in denials and blamed everything and everyone else, so are my family members.

      Check your portions, drink water only (add lemon, lime, cucumber etc). Eat local fresh produce in season and exercise. Instead of buing a pack of Ramen Noodles, by yourself a banana!

    • Anonymous says:

      We are a family of 4 and also have a helper who eats at our house. We average a grocery bill of $ 1,000/month, and most days, my husband packs his lunch at home and we provide packed lunches for our kids every day. We eat fairly healthy (but are in no way perfect). How you end up with a grocery bill of $2,500 in an effort to eat healthy is beyond me. Eating healthy does not equate to buying gourmet food and perhaps your bill is an indication of the amount of food (read excess portions) you consume.

      I know that being overweight is rough – I used to be there for many years as well, but at the end, I had to admit that as long as I was going to blame everyone and everything else, my weight was never going to shift. Start making right choices, ditch the soda and chips and stay away from snack foods.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are so correct. It is MUCH more expensive to eat healthfully than to to eat unhealthfully. A low fat, high fiber lunch is high in cost, a simple sugar, high fat lunch is cheap.

      Just an example… Salad at BK $7.59, Whopper $2.50.

      i do try and pack my lunch daily, but sometimes I cannot, and I have to eat something! Workimg in central GT there are few healthy optioms, and almost no affordable ones.

      Today a coworker ate doritos and a coke for lunch. When I teased her for her poor diet she said ‘ that is all I can afford I have too many bills to pay.” Sad but true,

    • Anonymous says:

      I went to Foster's the other day and paid almost $4.00 for 3 apples. Ridiculous

  11. Ike N. Sienow says:

    Yes, we have a lot of slobs!  I'm overweight so I can't put the slobs down without putting myself down too.  My reason for being overweight is that I'm too set in my ways (also known as too stupid) to cut back on the fattening foods.  What's your excuse?

  12. Anonymous says:

    That is because everyone is driving HUGE vehicles, instead of walking. Expats working in constructions and riding bycycles are lean and sexy.

  13. Young_Caymanian87 says:

    And just last Friday there was a fundraiser to feed kids who arent able to receive lunch……….

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whether we like to admit it or not, we will ALL pay for dealing with the medical conditions that result from most of our population being overweight. It's time for everyone to start doing something about it. There is a wealth of free information on nutrition and health, places to exercise and organised walks etc…. to join in on, unless we make excuses to ourselves.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Surpised??? The answer is in your attitudes and in your fridges…better to sort it out yourselves rather than the doctors having to sort it out for you at tremendous cost to the economy..