In Barbados, an alarming 1 in every 3 children is considered overweight or obese. Obesity and poor diet are known drivers of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease in adulthood. Currently, NCDs are responsible for 8 out of 10 deaths (83%) in the country, prompting a response from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB).
Through HSFB’s Childhood Obesity Prevention programme, efforts throughout Barbados have increased to implement a healthy nutrition policy in school which would include a ban on sugary drinks. HSFB along with other civil society organizations are calling on the public and policymakers to support the development and implementation of these urgent policy changes.
In November 2018, a survey commissioned by HSFB revealed that 88% of Barbadians are concerned about obesity in children and that 95% believe it is ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ that the government plays an important role in reducing obesity. The survey also revealed that almost all Barbadians (92%) support having a national policy to ensure a healthy school environment.
As a result, HSFB, with the support of Vital Strategies, developed a series of mass media campaigns to help increase public awareness on the health harms of sugary drinks and to encourage policymakers and the public to support a policy ban in schools.
The campaigns, including “Switch It Up” and “Protect Our Children,” have sparked discussions and support across social media. Local journalist and TV news anchor, created the #NoSugarNovemberChallenge, which caught the attention of Barbadians including the Prime Minister. The hashtag was trending in Barbados throughout November, helping increase awareness of childhood overweight and obesity, NCDs, and the correlation with excess consumption of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Technological and Vocational Training are supportive of the policy and together they have generated much hope that the healthy nutrition in school’s policy may be implemented in the near future.
The Obesity Prevention Program became the Food Policy Program in 2020.