NEW YORK, USA — Heads of government from four Caribbean countries gathered for a high-level meeting in New York City on Wednesday to discuss how public health policies can tackle the growing burden of overweight and obesity in the region.
Speaking at the meeting, Michael Bloomberg, World Health Organization (WHO) global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder, said:
“The good news is that we know how to reduce obesity, through policies like taxes on sugary drinks, better labeling on unhealthy food, and healthier school meals. And we’re beginning to make progress.”
Among the Caribbean leaders present were:
Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda,
Allen Chastanet, prime minister of Saint Lucia,
Andrew Holness, prime minister of Jamaica,
and Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados.
Across the Caribbean, 40 to 70 percent of adults and nearly 30 percent of children are overweight or obese.
Moreover, diabetes is one of the region’s most pressing public health problems. Nearly 11.9 percent of the population has diabetes, well above the global rate of 8.5 percent. Caribbean adults consume an estimated two servings of sugary beverages per day, the highest of any region.
Bloomberg has long been focused on improving public health – during his time as New York City mayor, in his work through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and now in his role as WHO global ambassador.
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ obesity prevention program supports governments and non-government organizations to put in place policies that reduce consumer demand for unhealthy foods and beverages, improve the food environment, and make healthier choices easier for everyone.
Based on the best-available evidence, policies that could have the most impact include: raising taxes on sugary beverages and junk food; limiting children’s and adolescents’ exposure to unhealthy food and beverage marketing through comprehensive marketing bans; promoting healthy food policies for the public sector, especially schools; introducing understandable and informative front-of-package nutrition labels; and developing obesity prevention advertising campaigns.