The Paediatric Society of T&T (PSTT) said it has noted with growing concern, the increased numbers of overweight and obese children presenting to hospitals and private clinics in T&T.
In a release, they PSTT said: “Our members have been noting with growing alarm the increased numbers of overweight and obese children presenting to our hospital and private clinics. There has also been a significant increase in childhood type 2 diabetes and other co-morbidities traditionally associated with the adult population. Not only are these children experiencing more ill-health, but these children will become adults with high rates of NCDs who are more prone to depression, anxiety, and poor immune systems,” the society said in a statement.
“In 2020 Professor Teelucksingh et al, found that Trinidad and Tobago ranked fifth in the Caribbean. The WHO recently published that we rank eighth worldwide with an obesity rate of 14 per cent in those less than five years old.
“This translates into a four-fold increase in childhood obesity rates over the last two decades. This is an alarming rate of increase and if we do not intervene now the situation will only worsen,” the society said.
The society believes this increased number of overweight children is a direct result of a change in lifestyle such as reduced physical activity, increased screen time and unhealthy and unbalanced diets.
According to the society, “Families spend less time at home with increased hours in traffic, parents working longer hours and children spending more hours in lessons. Many schools have also removed physical education from their timetables as children approach examination classes to devote more hours to academic achievement.
“Parents are often left with few options in terms of quick affordable fast food to sustain their families. Unfortunately, these are the foods that are high in calories, fat, salt and sugar, all ingredients of an unhealthy, unbalanced diet,” it added.
The observations came as the society expressed its support for the Ministry of Health’s efforts to reduce the incidence of the non-communicable disease (NCD) among the demographic.
The members of the PSTT therefore support all measures to arrest this trend nationally.
“We congratulate and support the minister’s ongoing discussions with the heads of the fast food chains and restaurants and the beverage industry in finding strategies to make their offerings to the public more balanced,” the PSTT’s statement said.
In addition to healthier fast-food options, the society said ongoing and robust public discussion and education about obesity and NCD reduction was necessary.
It also expressed support for all strategies that encourage more childhood physical activity and outdoor play, “starting with returning physical education to all classes in our schools and making safe outdoor spaces available in communities”